A female weightlifter said allowing transgender athlete Laurel Hubbard from New Zealand to compete in the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games as a woman is “a bad joke.”
Belgian weightlifter Anna Vanbellinghen, who competes in the same super-heavyweight category as Hubbard, spoke out in a statement to Inside the Games.
Hubbard, 43, competed as a man before “transitioning” in 2013 at the age of 35, according to Reuters.
Vanbellinghen, 27, said she doesn’t reject Hubbard’s transgender identity.
“First off, I would like to stress that I fully support the transgender community, and that what I’m about to say doesn’t come from a place of rejection of this athlete’s identity,” she said.
“I am aware that defining a legal frame for transgender participation in sports is very difficult since there is an infinite variety of situations, and that reaching an entirely satisfactory solution, from either side of the debate, is probably impossible,” she said.
But she said a dose of common sense and a concern for fairness should have been taken into account when deciding whether to allow a man who has competed as a weightlifter for many years to compete against women.
“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,” she said.
Vanbellinghen pointed out that steroids can give athletes a major advantage even years after taking them.
“So why is it still a question whether two decades, from puberty to the age of 35, with the hormonal system of a man also would give an advantage?” she asked.
“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,” she said.
Vanbellinghen said Olympic rules that open the door for Hubbard slam it shut on others.
“Life-changing opportunities are missed for some athletes — medals and Olympic qualifications — and we are powerless,” she said.
Hubbard’s case should prompt a review of the rules, she said, to ensure this does not happen again.
“Of course, this debate is taking place in a broader context of discrimination against transgender people, and that is why the question is never free of ideology. However, the extreme nature of this particular situation really demonstrates the need to set up a stricter legal framework for transgender inclusion in sports, and especially elite sports,” she said.
“Because I do believe that everyone should have access to sports, but not at the expense of others,” she said.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.