Australian Weightlifting Federation

Addition Of Transgender Weightlifter Sparks Controversy Before Commonwealth Games

"I don't think it's a level playing field."

The addition of a transgender athlete to New Zealand’s Commonwealth Games team has upset some teammates.

Weightlifter Laurel Hubbard, 39, is the first out trans sportsperson to represent New Zealand after cleared by the International Olympic Committee and International Weightlifting Federation to compete against other female lifters in the 200lb (90kg) class.

Before transitioning, Hubbard was a national junior record-holder in the male 230lb (105kg) weight class.

“I am glad that people can come out and live their lives and be happy,” Tracey Lambrechs, who won the bronze medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, told Radio New Zealand. “But when it comes to a professional sporting environment it gets a bit trickier. [She] is lifting a lot more than what the other women are… so personally I do think there is an unfair advantage.”

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With the addition of Hubbard, Lambrechs had to drop a weight class to make the team.

“I feel there is an unfair advantage even though it is within all the regulations,” she adds. “All I can hope is that they look into it and make a more educated judgement.”

Hubbard has kept a low profile of late, but Lambrechs would like to see her talk to the press: “Part of being an elite athlete is managing the media and there are ways you can do that in a safe environment.”

But some in the sport are openly antagonistic to her presence: “I don’t think it’s a level playing field,” claims Australian Weightlifting Federation head Michael Keelan.

“We’re in a power sport which is normally related to masculine tendencies… where you’ve got that aggression, you’ve got the right hormones, then you can lift bigger weights,” he says. “If you’ve been a male and you’ve lifted certain weights and then you suddenly transition to a female, then psychologically you know you’ve lifted those weights before.”

The 2018 Commonwealth Games will be held April 4 to 15 in Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. For the first time there will be an equal number of events for male and female competitors.

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