A women's rights group isn't happy about New Zealand transgender weightlifter Laurel Hubbard's gold medals earlier this month at the Pacific Games in Samoa and is calling on the country's Olympic committee to "defend women's sport," Reuters reported.
"Kiwis (New Zealanders) know that males competing in women's sport is blatantly unfair," according to Ani O'Brien of New Zealand lobby group "Speak Up For Women," which wants athletic competition categorized by biological sex rather than gender identity, the outlet said.
"As a nation we pride ourselves on being good sports, and going into the Olympics next year this is not a good look," O'Brien added, Australia's ABC News reported.
What's the background?
Hubbard — a biological male who won two silver medals in a women's world championship two years ago — took home two gold medals and a silver medal in the women's competition at the Pacific Games in Samoa.
Hubbard bested all opponents in the women's +89k snatch — for participants weighing 196 pounds or above — and the overall women's +89k, the Pacific Games site said. Hubbard won silver in the women's +89k clean and jerk, the site also said.
The 41-year-old — who represented New Zealand as Gavin Hubbard before a gender transition about six years ago — is now the Oceania senior champion, the Commonwealth senior champion, and the Pacific Games senior champion, Stuff reported.
Transgender weightlifter Laurel Hubbard asks critics to 'treat people like me with respect' youtu.be
What did Samoa's prime minister have to say about Hubbard's victories?
After Hubbard bested Samoa's Feagaiga Stowers in the Pacific Games, Samoa's prime minister wasn't pleased.
"This fa'afafine [a Samoan third gender] or man should have never been allowed by the Pacific Games Council president to lift with the women," Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi told the Samoa Observer, according to Australia's ABC News. "No matter how we look at it, he's a man, and it's shocking this was allowed in the first place."
The prime minister added to Reuters that "I realize we have to (be) inclusive, and we cannot exclude these people" but "they ought to participate in these Games in their own category."
New scientific study
In 2015, International Olympic Committee guidelines ruled that transgender athletes can compete as women if their testosterone levels are below 10 nanomoles per liter for at least 12 months before their first competition, Reuters said.
But some scientists say the restriction doesn't do enough to suppress natural advantages of biological males, including bone and muscle density, the outlet added.
Researchers at the University of Otago in New Zealand said in a peer-reviewed study published earlier this month that the IOC guidelines were "poorly drawn" and the mandated testosterone level was still "significantly higher" than that of women, Reuters noted.
The study added that the IOC should end its "binary" approach to competition — i.e., male and female categories — and adopt a transgender category or otherwise look for a way to balance inclusion and a level playing field, the outlet said.
But the study was panned by transgender advocates and athletes, Reuters added.
"The opinions of scientists although valid, are just that, opinions," New Zealand mountain biker Kate Weatherly — who transitioned as a teenager and became a national champion competing against women — told the outlet. "I'm not winning by crazy margins and the anecdotal evidence does point to me having little to no advantage."
Not so fast
Dr. Nicola Williams, research director for the UK's Fair Play for Women, told Australia's ABC News that Hubbard had an unfair advantage that couldn't be reversed by the IOC lowering testosterone limits.
"Any reduction in testosterone, even to zero, wouldn't actually reverse the male performance advantage that someone has when they go through male puberty, because we can't reverse that," Williams told the outlet. "So even if the IOC do reduce [the limit] down to five, it's still blatantly unfair."
She added to Australia's ABC News that "within 20 years, women have built their discipline from scratch, and it's now being undermined by people that don't have female bodies essentially. Those people are now winning, and Laurel Hubbard is the evidence."