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Transgender weightlifter wins women's competition, sparking debate on fairness

New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard, a transgender woman, won the 198.4-pound division competing at a women's weightlifting competition in Melbourne. (Image Source: 1News screen cap)

A man, identifying as a transgender woman,  recently dominated a female weightlifting competition, sparking debate on fairness in sports.

Gavin Hubbard, 39 — now going by Laurel Hubbard — is a New Zealand weightlifter who dominated the Australian International weightlifting competition in Melbourne on Sunday. Hubbard lifted 590.9 pounds in the women's 198.4-pound division, out-lifting the competition by 45 pounds.

Hubbard is the first transgender individual to win her division in this competition.

While many may find this progressive and a reason to celebrate, some of Hubbard's competitors aren't seeing it quite that way.

"She is who she is. That's the way the politics ... and what the New Zealanders have decided. I can't say much more than that," disappointed bronze medalist Kaitlyn Fassina said. "She is seen as female and that's the way it is."

Two-time Olympian Deborah Acason said, "If I was in that category, I wouldn't feel like I was in an equal situation. I just feel that, if it's not even, why are we doing the sport?"

Transgender athletes have stirred controversy in the past. MMA fighter Fallon Fox, a man who identifies as a transgender woman fights women in the ring and is oftentimes victorious. One of Fox's opponents, Tamikka Brents, after she had received a concussion and a broken orbital bone, said: “I’ve fought a lot of women and have never felt the strength that I felt in a fight as I did that night. I can’t answer whether it’s because she was born a man or not, because I’m not a doctor. I can only say I’ve never felt so overpowered ever in my life, and I am an abnormally strong female.”

Previously, the International Olympic Committee had strict guidelines for transgender athletes, requiring transitional surgery and two years of hormone treatments before competitions. These have now been relaxed, however, and now no surgery is required. Also, female-to-male athletes may compete at will, while male-to-female must prove they fell under a certain level of testosterone for a single year.

The IOC guidelines carry carry weight throughout the international sporting community, including the Commonwealth Federation, which is one of the recognized organizations by the IOC. Although Hubbard is still a man, he met the standards set by the IOC that allowed him to compete.

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