A transgender weightlifter in New Zealand became a topic of controversy on Sunday after she handily won the women’s over 90-kilogram division at the Australian International competition in Melbourne. Laurel Hubbard, 39, lifted a combined total of 590 pounds to take first place — more than 44 pounds above what the runner-up, Samoan weightlifter Iuniarra Sipaia, was able to lift.
With the win, Hubbard is now in line to compete at the 2017 Commonwealth Games — a distinction that has sparked criticism from Australian competitors who contend Hubbard had an advantage as a transgender woman competing against female opponents.
Rio Olympic lifter Tracey Lambrechs, a Commonwealth Games bronze medalist, has expressed reservations about Hubbard’s eligibility in the women’s field. As a result of Hubbard’s success, Lambrechs reportedly had to change her weight class and compete in a lower division.
“We all deserve to be on an even playing field,” one weightlifter told New Zealand TV news station One News Now. “It’s difficult when you believe that you’re not. If it’s not even, why are we doing the sport?”
Before undergoing gender transition in her mid-30s, Hubbard had previously competed at the national level in men’s weightlifting as Gavin Hubbard. According to Olympic Weightlifting New Zealand, Hubbard qualified to compete in the women’s division under International Olympic Committee policy after she passed hormonal regulation testing.
“It’s testosterone levels which are a much more scientific way of measuring male gender, female gender than anything else that is currently known,” explained sports journalist Phil Gifford. “Laurel has passed all of those tests over the last 12 months.”
For more on Hubbard, watch the video report on her produced by New Zealand’s One News ahead of the competition.
Read the full story at Yahoo News.