"It's not fair to women lifters" - Games Chairman on transgender lifter

It is not fair to have a transgender athlete compete against women.

That's the view of the 2019 Pacific Games Organising Committee Chairman, Loau Keneti Sio, who is also the Minister of Education, Sports and Culture. 

Loau expressed his opinion, weighing into the debate surrounding the participation of New Zealand transgender weightlifter, Laurel Hubbard.

The New Zealand athlete won with a total lift of 268kg in the women's 87kg category last Saturday to get gold, beating Samoa's Feagaiga Stowers and Iuniana Sipaia who settled for silver and bronze respectively when they recorded lifts of 261kg and 255kg.

Loau said the outrage about what happened on Saturday is understandable.

But he said the Pacific Games is obliged to follow the rules and regulations set by international sporting bodies such as the International Olympic Committee (I.O.C.) and International Weightlifting Federation (I.W.F.).

He said they cannot be changed despite public criticism that it was unfair for Hubbard to contest the women's category.

“They have allowed New Zealand transgender Laurel Hubbard to lift in the women’s category and there is nothing we can do about it," he said. 

“We all know that it is not fair to the women lifters but that is the reality we face in the world of sports. The rules have changed and we cannot deviate from these rules,” he said.

Loau said the International Weightlifting Federation eligibility criteria is clear and it is "a non-issue".  

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“The I.O.C. and the I.W.F. do not discriminate against transgender athletes and while this may be hard to accept, we must learn to adapt to these rules because it will not change for anyone.”

Loau then used the opportunity to urge all Samoan transgender and fa’afafines to join the country's national weightlifting team. 

When he was alerted to his earlier comments on the fairness of transgender competing against women and the invitation to the fa’afafine to join the weightlifting team, he said: “We must utilise the opportunity and not let it go to waste, if New Zealand transgender can do, why can’t our Samoan fa’afafine’s follow suit – I’m certain we will win all the medals."

Formerly known as Gavin Hubbard, Laurel took gold on the final day of the four-in-one International Weightlifting Championships at Gym 1, Tuana'imato. In 2017 then Garry Marshall, president of Olympic Weightlifting New Zealand, told the New Zealand Herald that despite her competitors highlighting similar concerns, his organisation’s stance is decided.

“We have to follow the policy of the International Olympic Committee and the International Weightlifting Federation.

“They do not acknowledge in any way the gender identity of an athlete other than male or female; they’re not described as transgender.”

A transgender women “must demonstrate that her total testosterone level in serum has been below 10 [nanomoles per litre] for at least 12 months prior to her first competition” in order to compete as a woman, according to the IOC rules issued in 2015.

Laurel Hubbard met these qualifications and is now the first transgender athlete to represent New Zealand.

Hubbard, 41, became the first Kiwi to win any medal at the weightlifting world championships with her two silver medals in Anaheim, in the United States two years ago. 

Samoa weightlifting coach Tuaopepe Jerry Wallwork has also expressed concerns with Hubbard participating in the women's category in the Pacific Games.  

“I've always said it's not fair for a person who was a former male lifter and now is competing as a female lifter. The muscles and strength are not equal. But unfortunately this has been endorsed and approved by the I.O.C.” 

Efforts by the Samoa Observer to get direct comments from Hubbard and the New Zealand weight lifting team have been unsuccessful as of press time. 


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