International News May 31, 2021 3:16 PM EST

Olympic weightlifter speaks out against biological male competing in women's events in Tokyo

Belgian weightlifter Anna Vanbellinghen calls the situation of having a biological male who identifies as transgender compete in the women's weightlifting event "a bad joke."

Olympic weightlifter speaks out against biological male competing in women's events in Tokyo
Libby Emmons Brooklyn, NY
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As Laurel Hubbard looks to become the first transwoman to compete in women's sports in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, women who would be forced to compete against Hubbard are starting to speak out.

Belgian weightlifter Anna Vanbellinghen calls the situation of having a biological male who identifies as transgender compete in the women's weightlifting event "a bad joke."

Vanbellinghen would be a direct competitor to Hubbard, as she competes in the same +87kg division.

"First off, I would like to stress that I fully support the transgender community, and that what I’m about to say doesn’t come from a place of rejection of this athlete’s identity," Vanbellinghen said.

"I am aware that defining a legal frame for transgender participation in sports is very difficult since there is an infinite variety of situations, and that reaching an entirely satisfactory solution, from either side of the debate, is probably impossible.

"However, anyone that has trained weightlifting at a high level knows this to be true in their bones: this particular situation is unfair to the sport and to the athletes."

The normal, healthy range of testosterone in men is 9.2 to 31.8 nmol/liter. The International Olympic Committee (IOC)requires that male-bodied transgender individuals who want to compete in women's events have lowered their testosterone levels to 10 nmol/liter for a period of 12 months or more. The normal amount of testosterone in women's blood is .09 nmol/liter of blood.

"So why is it still a question whether two decades, from puberty to the age of 35, with the hormonal system of a man also would give an advantage [in competing against women]?" Vanbellinghen asked.

"I understand that for sports authorities nothing is as simple as following your common sense, and that there are a lot of impracticalities when studying such a rare phenomenon, but for athletes the whole thing feels like a bad joke.

"Life-changing opportunities are missed for some athletes—medals and Olympic qualifications—and we are powerless.

"Of course, this debate is taking place in a broader context of discrimination against transgender people, and that is why the question is never free of ideology.

"However, the extreme nature of this particular situation really demonstrates the need to set up a stricter legal framework for transgender inclusion in sports, and especially elite sports.

"Because I do believe that everyone should have access to sports, but not at the expense of others."

Hubbard dominated in the 2019 Pacific Games. Hubbard, then 41, took the gold and stood atop the highest podium while flanked by Samoa's Commonwealth Games gold medalist Feagaiga Stowers and Iuniana Sipaia, winners of the silver and bronze, respectively. Both women were substantially younger than Hubbard, but could not compete against Hubbard's male strength.

While Hubbard has not yet qualified for the New Zealand women's weightlifting team, and will still need to be shows to meet fitness and performance standards, Hubbard is likely to be cleared to compete.

This comes as a survey shows that only 34 percent of those Americans believe that transgender-identified athletes should be allowed to compete based on their gender identity and not biological sex.

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