Four years ago, weightlifter Laurel Hubbard transitioned from being a male to a female. She will now compete in the women's weightlifting competition at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, in spite of protest.
The Commonwealth Games is an athletic competition (similar to the Olympics) between countries that include 53 members comprised of the former British Empire. The competition has carried on since 1930.
Cited as one of New Zealand's "brightest medal prospects," the 40-year-old is facing scrutiny over whether or not her competition against naturally-born women is fair. Otago University physiology professor Alison Heather said that "in general males outperform females across most sports, in weightlifting and strength sports...(and) that male to female difference can be as high as 25 percent."
Heather added: "A man transitioning to a female has physiological advantages that they take into their new female life based on their previous male life." She described those advantages such as having naturally larger hearts and lungs, muscle mass and bone structures.
Hubbard qualified under the parameters set for transgender athletes by the International Olympic Committee, which are also followed by the International Weightlifting Federation. The metrics are based on testosterone levels, and after twelve months of hormone therapy, Hubbard is able to compete in the women's category.
The athlete won two silver medals at the Weightlifting World Championship in the US last year, following a perfect competition record in Australian competitions since her transition. But the wins have come under scrutiny.
New Zealand's former super-heavyweight champion lost her title after Hubbard joined the women's division, and subsequently shed pounds to compete in a lower weight class. She expressed her frustration toward officials with the allowance of Hubbard's competition in the women's class to Radio NZ, saying "All I can hope is that they look into it and make a more educated judgment."
Tim Swords, coach of Sarah Robles who was the US hopeful and competed against Hubbard in the WWC competition last year, expressed his views on Hubbard's participation at the time: "I do not want to say anything negative, but in my humble opinion this is not fair."
But not all competitors are against Hubbard's participation in the women's division. British weightlifter Emily Campbell has spoken publicly about her support of Hubbard being a part of the contest, saying "Everyone has been very opinionated about it but I think everyone is kind of forgetting about her feelings and how she feels. She is just doing something that she completely loves."