Laurel Hubbard has broken four national records and won her first international women’s weightlifting title. She dominated the competition by 19 kilograms (41 pounds). Her win, however, is causing worldwide outrage for one pesky little reason.
Hubbard, a 39-year-old weightlifter from New Zealand, became the first Kiwi of her kind to win the title. She won the women’s 90+kg (198 pounds) division and set four records in the process, lifting a combined total of 268kg (590 pounds.) Hubbard was described as “visibly emotional” following the win, though she held back her tears while smiling and waving from the podium.
Other competitors are none too pleased about Hubbard’s victory, however, for one simple reason. She was born a male. In fact, Hubbard was born as the son of former Auckland Mayor Dick Hubbard and even previously competed at a national level in men’s weightlifting as Gavin Hubbard. “Gavin” became a transgender in his mid-thirties, changed his name to Laurel, and started swiftly climbing the women’s ranks.
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One of Hubbard’s competitors in the event voiced her complaints, saying, “We all deserve to be on an even playing field.” The weightlifter added, “It’s difficult when you believe that you’re not. If it’s not even, why are we doing the sport?”
Shockingly, not everyone agrees. Prominent sportswriter Phil Gifford said that Hubbard had “every right to compete with the women” after passing “straightforward” hormone regulations. “It’s testosterone levels which is a much more scientific way of measuring male gender, female gender than anything else that is currently known… And Lauren has passed all of those tests over the last 12 months,” he said.
The International Olympic Committee recognizes only two genders, male and female. There is no transgender category. Some officials confess that they do not know what to do about the modern issue of transgenders in the sport.
Deborah Acason, from the Australian Weightlifting Federation, said, “We’ve got two categories here, it’s been great that women can do the sport of weightlifting…but I think we need to look at a decision where we can give people, in this situation, have a category where everyone can compete on an even playing field.”
Nearly 200 pounds makes for a large man, much less a female. Given that Hubbard recently competed as a man, other competitors are justified in their outrage. Unfortunately, for all concerned, there is a larger problem looming on the horizon: the Olympic Games are soon to see issues like this on a world stage. Unfortunately, it’s not likely the controversy will die down anytime soon.