- Joshua Surtees
- BBC Sports Reporter
“I’m not here to change the world,” she said in 2017 when Laurel Hubbard (Laurel Hubbard) competed for the first time as a female weightlifter.
“I just want to be myself and do my own thing,” she told a reporter when she returned to her home country of New Zealand after winning two silver medals at the World Championships.
Two years later, she won the 87kg and above competition at the Samoa Pacific Games, leading some people to accuse her of being unfair in allowing her to participate, because Laurel Hubbard had lived as a male for 30 years. In 2012, the 33-year-old Hubbard came out as a transgender woman and restarted her sports career afterwards.
After winning the Anaheim World Weightlifting Championships in 2017, Hubbard rarely accepted media interviews. She chose to keep herself away from the series of turmoil surrounding her and the often polarized overall debate on the rights of transgender groups.
Hubbard said in the 2017 interview that she hopes that people will understand and accept her as a female.
“When people see something new that is different from what they perceive, people will believe what they are willing to believe. Self-defense is an instinct,” she said.
“It’s not really my job to change their thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. I just want them to see a bigger picture, not just trust intuition.”
On August 2nd, she became the first openly transgender athlete to participate in the Olympic Games with a gender different from her birth. After failing three snatches in the women’s competition over 87 kg, her Olympic journey also came to an end. Chinese player Li Wenwen won the gold medal in the competition. British player Emily Campbell and American player Sarah Robles ranked second and third.
Laurel Hubbard and others
As a teenager, Hubbard is already a national record holder, having reached a total of 300 kg in the men’s domestic weightlifting competition in New Zealand. In 2001, 23-year-old Hubbard withdrew from the weightlifting industry.
She later said: “The pressure of trying to fit into a world that may not be set for someone like me…becomes unbearable.”
Today, at the age of 43, she has become the third-oldest weightlifter in the history of the Olympic Games. Ashley Abbott, spokesperson for the New Zealand Olympic Committee, described her as a “very important role model” and “opened up a discussion about inclusiveness.”
“When you see people like you achieve success on the world stage, this is really a good opportunity to see that there is a way there,” Albert said.
Since returning to the game, Hubbard has won seven international gold medals.
After retiring from the 2018 Commonwealth Games due to an elbow injury, she once thought that her career would end there. But she eventually returned, winning the gold medal at the 2019 Pacific Games and finishing sixth in the world championships.
During the Tokyo Olympic qualifiers, Hubbard’s best result was 285 kg, ranking fourth among all qualified players, at least 50 kg lower than the best result of 21-year-old champion Li Wenwen.
Although changing the world may not be Hubbard’s top priority, she was able to compete as the first transgender athlete to participate in a personal event, which has greatly helped to change the sports tradition for hundreds of years.
“I am grateful and ashamed to receive the kindness and support from so many New Zealanders,” she said in a brief statement after she was selected for the Olympics.
On July 30, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) issued another statement in her name, which read: “I regard the Olympics as a global celebration that promotes our hopes, ideals and values. Thank you to the International Olympic Committee. Will make efforts to make sports inclusive and accessible.”
Albert stated that Hubbard has been “keeping a low profile” and that she will be protected from “any negative things in the social media space”.
“We all need to remember that there is a person behind these technical problems,” Albert said.
Richard Budgett, the head of medicine and science at the International Olympic Committee, also said: “Laurel Hubbard is a woman who is playing in accordance with the rules of her federation.”
“We must pay tribute to her courage and perseverance to win the Olympic qualification.”
The International Olympic Committee approved transgender athletes to participate in the Olympics in 2004.
Since 2015, the International Olympic Committee has stipulated that athletes who have changed from men to women can participate in women’s sports without surgery. Those athletes who only need to declare themselves as women have a gender identity for at least four years, and their testosterone levels remain below 10 nmol. /L At least 12 months.
In addition, on individual projects, the International Olympic Committee allows sports federations to formulate their own guiding policies. The World Athletics standard is 5nmol/L, and after the IOC’s research is over, other organizations such as the International Weightlifting Federation may also adopt the same standard as the IOC.
According to the British National Health Care System (NHS) data, the testosterone level of men is 10-30nmol/L. The specific age and the measurement time of the day are different, the results will also change, but the value of young healthy men is usually between 20-30 For women, the value for women is between 0.7 and 2.8.
To lower testosterone levels, Hubbert and other transgender female contestants must take hormone-suppressing drugs.
The IOC’s own rules may also undergo multiple revisions in the future. The organization is currently studying its policy. They told the BBC that they are studying “a new comprehensive and respectful approach to the rights and interests of athletes to solve the complexity of this problem”. In the process, “not only medical, scientific and legal issues will be considered, but human rights will also be considered.”
Scientific issues are arguing
The process of changing from a male to a female can itself cause a significant decrease in testosterone, and different studies have shown that this will have an impact on the individual’s athletic ability and strength.
Italian transgender sprinter Valentina Petrillo recently told the BBC that she had gained 10 kg in the first few months of the transition. “I can’t eat and drink like before. I have anemia, my hemoglobin is very low, I am always cold, my physical strength is not as good as before, my sleep is not the same as before, and I also have mood swings.”
The International Olympic Committee Bukit said that although there are many studies that have shown the residual advantage of people experiencing male puberty, we “must weigh all the other disadvantages of going through gender transition at the same time.”
“There are many aspects of physiology, anatomy and psychology that can give a person an outstanding performance. It is difficult to say:’Yes, she has an advantage.’ There are many other factors to consider,” Bukit said.
He also said that more scientific research is needed to establish a better “base of evidence” that trans women can bring to sports, but “given that there were no publicly disclosed trans women in the highest level of competition,” he believes The overall threat of transgender women to the women’s movement “may be exaggerated.”
Katherine Deves, co-founder of Save Women’s Sport Australasia, a group that opposes transgender women’s participation in the women’s movement, said that the drop in testosterone levels is only “to distract the focus.”
She called the International Olympic Committee’s policy of allowing Hubbert to participate in the competition “there are flaws.” She pointed out that transgender women have advantages in “every indicators” such as “speed, endurance, strength, fast-twitch muscles and larger organs.”
She also said that transgender women recover faster, have harder bones, and have no tilted pelvis, so they are less prone to knee or ankle injuries.
The scientific community has generally reached a consensus on the physiological differences between men and women during adolescence. During the male puberty that Hubbard has experienced, male muscle mass will increase.
Sports scientist Ross Tucker said that a series of physiological changes in male puberty will bring significant functional advantages (between men and women). He said that the difference between swimming and cycling is 10-12%. In time, weightlifting and other items involving upper limb muscle strength may reach “30-40%”.
But there are many people who disagree with Professor Tucker’s views. Joanna Harper of Loughborough University is a transgender woman who helped shape the current IOC policy.
Harper believes that it is not certain that transgender women must be stronger than cis gender women under the same weight. Although after hormone treatment, transgender women appear to be taller, larger, and larger than cis gender women on average. Stronger, these are advantages in many sports, but “we allow advantages in sports, but do not allow overwhelming advantages.”
She pointed out that in weightlifting, there are different levels of weight, and the women competing with Hubbard “are all very large women.”
“I think that if a transgender woman reduces her testosterone level to a female level and keeps it for a year or more, then the transgender woman should be allowed to participate in the Olympic Games.”
Support and opposition
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern expressed support for Hubbard. Her Olympic opponent, Australian player Tarrant (Charisma Amoe-Tarrant) said, “I respect her very much. I just want to wish her all the best.”
The British player Campbell, who won the silver medal, said in 2018, “I believe everyone should be able to do what they like, and like other women of us, she is qualified with her own power.”
But some people accused her of allowing her to participate.
New Zealand weightlifter Lambrechs (Tracey Lambrechs) said that she had to give Hubbard a place during the 2018 Commonwealth Games, which broke her heart.
Belgian weightlifter Anna Vanbellinghen called Hubbard’s participation in the Olympics as “unfair” and “like a bad joke”, and athletes with “life-changing opportunities” felt “powerless”.
In addition to Hubbard, there are three other transgender athletes participating in the Tokyo Olympics. They are Canadian football player Quinn, American skateboarder Alana Smith and cyclist Chelsea Wolfe. But none of them caused controversy like Hubbard.
The reason Hubbard sparked so much discussion is largely because her project is weightlifting. But in any case, Hubbard’s chapter will always be inscribed in the story of the Olympic Games.