New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard will become the first openly transgender athlete to compete in an Olympics on Monday, and her participation has been a divisive issue
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A petition calling on the Olympic Committee to bar transgender athletes competing in women’s divisions has been removed ahead of her games debut.
New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard will become the first openly transgender athlete to compete in an Olympics on Monday, and her participation has been a divisive issue.
Hubbard was born male but changed her name eight years ago and underwent hormone therapy to transition before resuming weightlifting, a sport she abandoned more than a decade ago.
Transgender rights advocates have applauded the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) decision to allow, under certain criteria, athletes like Hubbard who identify as women to compete in women’s events.
But some former athletes and activists believe her background gives her an unfair physiological advantage, and say her inclusion in the super-heavyweight 87+kg category undermines a protracted struggle for women to be treated equally in sport.
A petition was launched on change.org which called on the IOC to suspend its rules, claiming it ‘completely ignores the physical advantages in speed, height, stamina and strength that a male-born athlete will have.’
Now, the Mail Online reports, the petition has since been removed.
“It was flagged as hate speech,” a spokeswoman for Defend Women’s Sport said.
Despite efforts to have the petition re-instated the authors are yet to receive a response from change.org, the publication writes.
“Women have been able to have that competition for 16 years, and now you’ve got a male in there who [will] likely take a spot on the podium and take a place that should be going deservedly to a female competitor,” said Katherine Deves, co-founder of Save Women’s Sport Australasia.
The IOC cleared the way for transgender athletes to compete in Olympic women’s events without gender reassignment surgery in 2015, provided their testosterone levels stayed below 10 nanomoles per litre for at least 12 months.
In a statement on Friday Hubbard thanked the IOC “for its commitment to making sport inclusive and accessible”.
The IOC took into consideration a research paper by Joanna Harper, a transgender woman and amateur runner. Her preliminary study of eight transgender women athletes who underwent hormone therapy showed subsequent declines in performance.
Critics have dismissed the paper for being too narrow, an opinion Harper agrees with, while insisting it was not the basis upon which the IOC made its decision.
She is currently furthering the study through quantitative research on trans athletes at Loughborough University.
The IOC is leading a review of all the scientific data to determine a new framework that would allow international federations to take decisions for their sport individually.