A women’s rights group demanded action after a transgender weightlifter dominated a recent tournament and is free to compete at next year’s Tokyo Olympics.
The controversy stems from Laurel Hubbard’s performance at the Games in Samoa earlier this month, where she won two golds and a silver in three of the women’s heavyweight categories.
Women’s rights groups say that Hubbard, who competed for New Zealand in men’s weightlifting before her transition in her thirties, is having an “unfair” advantage against women and shouldn’t be allowed to compete in the Olympics in the women’s category.
New Zealand-based lobby group “Speak Up For Women” called on the country’s Olympic committee and sports minister to “defend women’s sport,” Reuters reported.
“Kiwis (New Zealanders) know that males competing in women’s sport is blatantly unfair,” the group’s spokesperson Ani O’Brien said.
“Kiwis (New Zealanders) know that males competing in women’s sport is blatantly unfair.”
British group “Fair Play for Women” also recently urged the sport authorities to “wake up” after Hubbard won the titles and argued that sports must be separated by sex rather than gender identity.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) issued guidelines in 2015 stating that transgender athletes can compete in women’s category as long as their testosterone levels are below 10 nanomoles per liter for at least 12 months prior to their first competition, according to Reuters.
Despite that, critics say the science shows that such rules don’t mitigate the fact that biological male athletes still enjoy natural advantages.
The controversy even prompted top officials to weigh on the issue, with Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi telling the outlet that Hubbard shouldn’t participate in another category.
“I really don’t think he – she – should ever participate in this (tournament), but I realize we have to (be) inclusive and we cannot exclude these people,” she told Reuters. “They ought to participate in these Games in their own category.”