Watch: Laurel Hubbard picked as first transgender athlete at Olympics
TV star Sam Quek has backed transgender weightlifter Laurel Hubbard to win the gold medal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, but acknowledged trans women have an "unfair" advantage.
The field hockey player, who won a gold medal at the 2016 Olympics, said on Tuesday that she “sympathises” with the New Zealander’s situation.
However, she criticised the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) handling of the issue, arguing that it was “unfair” for trans women to compete against biological women.
Hubbard made history in June when she was selected to compete at the Tokyo Olympics, making her the first openly transgender athlete ever to compete in the games.
But her qualification sparked a fierce debate across the world on whether it is fair to allow trans women to compete.
Writing in the Mirror, Quek said: “I have absolutely no problem with Hubbard personally for being selected for Tokyo 2020. In fact, I sympathise with her situation.”
“She has every right to compete and with no other platform available to her as a transgender woman, she has abided by all of the IOC’s guidelines and has been selected on that merit,” Quek added.
However, she went on to say that she thinks Hubbard competing against biological athletes does give her an “unfair biological advantage”.
She said: “My issue is that I believe the IOC’s guidelines aren’t fit for purpose and as a result, I believe Hubbard is competing against biological female athletes with an unfair biological advantage - that is on the IOC.
“Weightlifting is obviously a sport where biological males and biological females compete separately because it is accepted biological males have multiple physical aspects that can be considered sporting advantages; hence the size of the performance gap between the two.”
Quek also went onto to criticise the way the IOC has put in place rules about testosterone levels, saying they are not enough to level the playing field.
Hubbard became eligible to compete in Tokyo after the IOC changed its rules allowing transgender athletes to compete as a woman if their testosterone levels are below a certain threshold.
Testosterone is a hormone that increases muscle mass and while Hubbard's testosterone levels are below that threshold, critics say her participation in the Olympics is still unfair for female-born athletes.
They have pointed to the biological advantages of those who have gone through puberty as males, such as increased bone and muscle density.
Quek also pointed out that Hubbard is 43 years old while the average age of her weightlifting competitors is 23.
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“That massive 20-year average age gap is why Hubbard isn’t all but guaranteed to podium – not the IOC’s guidelines,” she said.
She then said: “Rightly or wrongly, Laurel Hubbard is the most significant athlete at Tokyo 2020 and by a distance.
“Her performance as the first transgender athlete will influence the course of history and set Olympic policy forever – and for that reason, I’ll actually be hoping she wins the Gold medal.”
Since being selected, Hubbard has faced intense criticism as well as transphobic attacks as well as calls for her to be disqualified.
On Saturday, the International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach reiterated that Hubbard was selected for participation in line with strict rules.
“The rules for qualification have been established by the International Weightlifting Federation before the qualifications started,” Bach said.
“These rules apply, and you cannot change rules during ongoing competitions.
“At the same time, the IOC is in an inquiry phase with all different stakeholders… to review these rules and finally come up with some guidelines which cannot be rules because this is a question where there is no one-size fits all solution. It differs from sport to sport.”
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