WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard is set to be the first transgender athlete to compete at the Olympics.
- But the fairness of the situation was called into question by one of her Olympic rivals, Belgium’s Anna Vanbellinghen.
- Vanbellinghen said that the situation feels “unfair to the sport and to the athletes” who will most likely miss the “life-changing opportunities” of winning Olympic medals.
Laurel Hubbard, 43, is set to be the first transgender athlete to compete at the Olympics. The weightlifting’s governing body modified the qualifying requirements for the upcoming Tokyo games to allow the inclusion, but several athletes in the field have questioned its fairness.
Before transitioning in 2013, Hubbard had already competed in men’s competitions.
She could potentially represent New Zealand, but she still has to satisfy the New Zealand Olympic Committee’s standards of fitness and performance before selection. Still, the chance of her competing in the Games has raised eyebrows.
Hubbard’s Olympic rival, Anna Vanbellinghen from Belgium, called the situation “unfair” and likened it to “a bad joke.”
Vanbellinghen will be competing in the same +87kg division as Hubbard.
She clarified that she fully supported the transgender community. But she pointed out that the principle of inclusion should not be “at the expense of others”.
Vanbellinghen told Olympics news website insidethegames, “Anyone that has trained weightlifting at a high level knows this to be true in their bones: this particular situation is unfair to the sport and to the athletes.”
Back in 2015, the IOC issued guidelines that allow any transgender athlete to compete as a woman, provided that their testosterone levels are below 10 nanomoles per liter for at least 12 months before their first competition.
These guidelines have been criticized by several scientists. They pointed out that those who have already gone through puberty as males already have several biological advantages, such as bone and muscle density.
Vanbellinghen said, “I understand that for sports authorities nothing is as simple as following your common sense and that there are a lot of impracticalities when studying such a rare phenomenon, but for athletes, the whole thing feels like a bad joke.” added.
She added, “Life-changing opportunities are missed for some athletes — medals and Olympic qualifications — and we are powerless.”