At the access controls to the sophisticated International Forum in Tokyo, architectural luxury made of steel, glass and concrete, the volunteers carefully check the accreditations and make sure that the attendee has made the corresponding reservation because the event, they underline in each door and every nook, is in “high demand” and the auditorium will be “full”. There are no concessions, the quota is full: photographers, press, television. It is almost eight in the afternoon and when she, Laurel Hubbard, ascends to the platform and prepares to execute the first lift, the Olympic Games enter another dimension: for the first time in history, a transsexual woman competes in the great party world sport. In other words, a new door opens.
The weightlifters enter the stage in single file and she, wearing black clothing from top to bottom, the tallest of all (1.85), looks straight ahead, adjusts her ponytail and claps while the soundtrack of the film plays Kill bill over the loudspeakers and presentations are made. Hers is the eighth, and is accompanied by the rampant throat clearing of camera shots, all telephoto lenses pointed at her. Also controversial. There are not a few colleagues who consider that they start with a certain advantage in a discipline where force has such a decisive intervention, and who do not quite understand why the International Olympic Committee (IOC), supported by the modification of the regulations that it carried out in 2015, it allows her to compete in the women’s event.
“I am not entirely oblivious to the controversy surrounding my participation in these Games,” says the 43-year-old New Zealand athlete – a four-leaf clover tattooed on her left arm – in a limited area that was previously a site, but in which the media are now swirling and there is no room for a pin. Despite this, he warns that he will not answer questions. She has just competed (category of +87 kilos) and, paradoxically, nervous, she has been disqualified for erring in all her maneuvers: she cannot handle the 120 kilos from the start, signs a void when rectifying with her feet on the second attempt , with 125, and does not manage to complete the start to third. He takes the applause from the room.
“I would simply like to thank the IOC, because I think it reaffirms its commitment to the principles of Olympism and to the idea of establishing that sport is something for everyone, inclusive and accessible,” he abbreviated.
Earlier, at noon, Anna van Bellinghen spoke, the same as before the Games said that Hubbard’s inclusion in the women’s competition was a “joke in bad taste.” The Belgian, who has been part of the test contested in the morning, -87 kilos, qualifies. “I wish you all the best, of course, but you need to do more research and do more scientific testing. They should talk to us, the athletes, “she complains when asked by an American reporter, insinuating that the competition is not entirely fair since there are studies that reveal that even after taking drugs to suppress their testosterone levels, transsexual women retain advantage in terms of strength.
Studies against criteria
An article published last year in the magazine Sports Medicine and signed by scientists Emma Hilton and Tommy Lundberg contends that “male performance advantage in weightlifting is 30% compared to female”, and that “even when transgender women suppressed testosterone for 12 months , the loss of lean body mass, muscle area and strength was only about 5% ”.
“I think it’s okay, it’s fair. If you meet the rules, go ahead, “says Cuban Eyurkenia Duverger, following the green light from the IOC since Hubbard meets all the eligibility criteria; In other words, she declares herself a woman –the legal framework establishes that there is no need for surgical intervention– and sets a limit of 10 nanograms of testosterone per milliliter of blood to be the maximum that a woman can have to participate in female tests. “Regarding that, I have no criteria”, responds aseptically the Spanish Lydia Valentín; “What their case raises will also be something new for them [los dirigentes del COI y la Federación Internacional de Halterofilia (IWF)]. Just? I don’t know… I don’t think it’s a door that opens; I think it is something exceptional, and that no one is going to change their sex to win an Olympic medal ”.
Until not long ago, 2012, instead of being she Hubbard was he, a prisoner in Gavin’s male body. He was 34 years old at the time, sporting several youth records (+105 kg category) and competing among men, until he decided to start the sex reassignment process and his career took a significant turn. From there, their results skyrocketed. She was proclaimed champion of Oceania in 2017 (+90 kilos) and 2019 (+87), and achieved the silver medal at the World Cup held in Anaheim four years ago (United States); two ago, he won gold at the Pacific Games and recorded the sixth best time in Pattaya, Thailand. His name began to sound. And now, in Tokyo, his presence has reopened the debate.
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