Samoa objects to transgender lifter

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Laurel Hubbard of New Zealand warms up during the IWF Weightlifting World Championships in Anaheim, California, USA on 5 December 2017.

Laurel Hubbard of New Zealand warms up during the IWF Weightlifting World Championships in Anaheim, California, USA on 5 December 2017. (Photo: Photosport)

The President of the Samoa Weightlifting Federation, Tuaopepe Asiata Wallwork, has again raised the issue of a transgender athlete who has been given the thumbs up to compete at the Commonwealth Games.

The athlete in question is New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard whose eligibility to compete at the Games has been confirmed following opposition voiced by Australian officials.

The Australian Weightlifting Federation (A.W.F.) called for transgender athlete Hubbard to be barred from the Games on the Gold Coast in April on the grounds of fairness.

A.W.F. chief executive Mike Keelan wrote to the International Weightlifting Federation protesting the inclusion of Hubbard because she has a physical advantage over “female-born” athletes.

“Ultimately, it is our strong view that weightlifting has always been a gender- specific sport, male and female, not a competition among individuals of various levels of testosterone,” Keelan said.

“In our respectful view, the current criteria and its application has the potential to devalue women’s weightlifting and discourage female-born athletes from pursuing the sport at an elite level in the future.”

In a statement, the Commonwealth Games Federation said the I.W.F. had established “sport-specific eligibility criteria” to be applied for the Games.

Tuaopepe Asiata Wallwork. Photo/Samoa Observer
Tuaopepe Asiata Wallwork. Photo/Samoa Observer

“The gender eligibility criteria currently applied by the I.W.F. does not constructively discriminate against transgender athletes,” the statement said.

“As a consequence there is no moral, ethical or legal basis to prevent transgender athletes from pursuing their sporting ambitions and competing in I.W.F-sanctioned events.”

In order to compete, Hubbard must meet strict criteria around testosterone levels, which New Zealand officials say she has done.

Hubbard, 39, competed as a male until beginning a transition to being a female four years ago.

She is a firm gold medal favourite, having dominated the over-90kg class at last September’s Oceania championships on the Gold Coast. A historic silver medal followed at the subsequent world championships in Texas.

Back in Samoa, Tuaopepe says the gold medal aspirations of one Samoa’s leading athletes have been dashed by rules that allow a transgender to compete.

Tuaopepe said Samoa’s Feagaiga Stowers is now training for the Commonwealth Games without hope of winning gold.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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