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Laurel Hubbard’s Participation at Tokyo 2020 Set a Bad Precedent for Women’s Weightlifting

La participación de Laurel Hubbard: un irrespeto para la halterofilia femenil

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Trans athlete Laurel Hubbard’s Olympic dream is over. Although her participation is historic, her performance was really bad: she did not complete a single lift. First she tried 120 kilograms per side and, in a bad move, the weight went backwards. Then she tried 125 kilograms per side, managed to lift the weight, but her technique was not adequate and the jury invalidated the movement. On her last attempt she committed the same sin as on the first lift.

It’s not that Hubbard lacked strength, her best record, in fact, is 285 kilograms total. She achieved it in 2018, prior to an injury that affected her athletic progress. That mark in 2018 positioned her among the favorites to get a medal, and would have been enough to get the bronze medal in these Olympic Games, as the American Sarah Robles lifted 282 kilos. However, beyond having the strength, Hubbard’s problem, ultimately, was her still-present amateurism.

Her lifts were not completed because of her anxiety and lack of technique. This is nothing that should come as a surprise, as Hubbard is a newly professional athlete, until relatively recently still an amateur, so it is disrespectful to women’s weightlifting that she has taken the Olympic spot away from women who have spent a lifetime preparing for the discipline.

The trans athlete has been training for fewer years than many of her female colleagues and is already 43 years old, one of the oldest athletes in the history of the discipline. The mere fact of qualifying without having an acceptable lifting technique already highlights the injustice in terms of physical conditions with respect to biologically female athletes. Basically, an amateur athlete who has been competing as a professional for less than five years took places from women who have been preparing for longer.

Laurel Hubbard, the first transgender athlete at an Olympic Games, competes in the women’s weightlifting +87kg Group A for the 2020 Olympic Games at the International Forum in Tokyo, Japan. (EFE)

Prior to her gender transition, Hubbard had already participated in weightlifting competitions in the men’s division. She did so until the age of 23. Then there was a gap of more than a decade without practicing the sport professionally and more than 16 years without attending an official competition.

Make no mistake: right now there are LGBT activists saying that since Hubbard couldn’t complete a single lift in the Olympics, it’s only fair that trans athletes compete in women’s sports. That, besides being reductionist, is not accurate.

Why Laurel Hubbard’s participation in weightlifting is a bad precedent?

Mexican weightlifting champion Luz Acosta stated during the Claro Sports broadcast that Laurel Hubbard’s participation is “directly affecting women.”

Prior to the current Olympics, Hubbard’s physical strength had already influenced nationally to affect biologically female athletes, breaking domestic records and surpassing Olympians like Tracey Lambrechs, who was shut out of international competitions at Hubbard’s hands and forced to switch weights in order to continue her career.

“Hubbard’s emergence as an international-calibre lifter last year forced Lambrechs to drop to a lower weight division, shedding 17kg in order to meet the 90kg class. Lambrechs, who won bronze at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014, admitted she was initially upset by being knocked off the top rung in the rankings by Hubbard, but she is trying to take a positive approach to her competitive future.” the New Zealand Herald reviewed, in 2017.

Lambrechs’ case is what would happen if trans athletes start making it in women’s sports. Many women, talented and professional, would be unfairly disadvantaged because another athlete with physical advantages would be competing against them. This will affect women exclusively. On the Canadian Olympic soccer team, for example, there is a trans woman, but she is not like Hubbard, as she is biologically female and identifies as male. It is almost impossible for her (or him) to play on the men’s national team. If she does make it, she won’t exactly be a dominant player.

Laurel Hubbard’s participation is a bad precedent, first, because at the domestic level she harmed New Zealand athletes; second, her technical level is not up to the level of an Olympic Games and, third, she did not compete in fair conditions, because beyond the fact that she has met the minimum testosterone levels required by the Olympic Committee, there are other types of biological advantages that are not linked to this item. For example, Hubbard transitioned long after puberty, so she developed as a man and maintains many physical advantages over her peers.

“Last year, the scientists Emma Hilton and Tommy Lundberg found that the male performance advantage in weightlifting was 30 % when compared to women. Their research indicated that even when transgender women suppressed testosterone for 12 months, the loss of lean body mass, muscle area and strength was only around 5 %,” reported The Guardian.

Sacrificing sporting justice with inclusion is very dangerous for sport and the Olympic Games.

Emmanuel Alejandro Rondón is a journalist at El American specializing in the areas of American politics and media analysis // Emmanuel Alejandro Rondón es periodista de El American especializado en las áreas de política americana y análisis de medios de comunicación.

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