A transgender battle that is far from over

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Eight seconds of silence followed the question put to the three medalists of the women’s weightlifting event of +87 kilograms of the Olympic Games in Tokyo: what did they feel about the “historic” participation of Laurel Hubbard, the first? openly transgender Olympian, to their test? “No, thank you,” American bronze medalist Sarah Robles finally said into the microphone at Monday’s media event.

Hubbard, 43, was disqualified Monday after three failed tricks. Despite a poor performance, the New Zealander’s inclusion in the Olympics eclipsed the women’s weightlifting competition, sparking a media frenzy and international debate over the unfair advantage of men competing in the women’s categories and taking away their opportunities in the women’s categories. most elite level.

Some transgender activists argue that Hubbard’s poor performance proved the outcry was an overreaction. Hubbard said on Monday that the Tokyo Olympics marked “the end of my journey as an athlete and the attention that comes with it.”

But the conflict in sport over transgender inclusion, male advantage and women’s rights is far from over. Many advocates of women’s sport have noted that Hubbard’s Olympic qualification came at the expense of placing 18-year-old weightlifter Roviel Detenamo of the small island of Nauru.

“Advantage doesn’t always equate to winning or losing. … It’s about what you are able to do that others are not, ”said Linda Blade, President of Alberta Athletics, former Team Canada competitor in the heptathlon, coach and co-author of Unsportsmanlike: How Trans Activism and Scientific Denial Are Destroying Sport. “Hubbard’s appearance in games opened people’s eyes to the problem.”

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) recently acknowledged that its transgender guidelines, updated in 2015, are no longer supported by science and need to be changed. A growing number of scientific studies show that men retain a 10 to 50 percent advantage over women after puberty, which is not significantly reduced simply by suppressing testosterone.

“There is some research, but it depends on whether you come from the perspective of inclusion as the first priority or absolute equity to the nth degree being the priority,” said IOC Medical and Scientific Director Richard Budgett. The Guardian.

The IOC will announce a new “framework” outlining the eligibility of trans athletes in the coming months.

The current policy allows men such as Hubbard who wish to compete as women to have maintained a female identity for four years and to demonstrate a total testosterone level below a certain level for at least 12 months prior to the first competition.

Hubbard began to identify publicly as a woman in 2012 and returned to weightlifting in 2017. The athlete has won regional competitions and won silver at the 2017 world championships.

Blade created a website challenging a 2015 study the IOC relied on for its transgender policy. This study found no significant benefit for eight male runners over female runners after taking anti-testosterone drugs. Joanna Harper, a British researcher, IOC transgender advisor and a man who identifies as a woman, conducted the study while participating in it.

“This gives a glimpse of the ridiculousness of the IOC’s decision-making and the sheer daring of creating such a policy for all elite female athletes in all sports,” Blade said.

Harper recently backtracked, saying testosterone suppressant drugs dampen male benefits for most sports, but not necessarily Olympic weightlifting. “I admit that of all the sports that could concern me Olympic weightlifting could be at the top of the list,” Harper told BBC Radio.

Blade believes the IOC will push individual sports to create their own transgender policies based on perceived benefit. Many sports organizations already have transgender policies based on current IOC guidelines.

“At least now we’re having this conversation,” Blade said. “My hope is that we will be able to reclaim the territory and the equity, if possible. “


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