Columns

Trans Athlete Bombs Out in Women's Olympic Weightlifting, Which Proves Nothing

AP Photo/Luca Bruno

A trans athlete who goes by the name Laurel Hubbard (formerly Gavin Hubbard) failed to earn a medal in women’s Olympic weightlifting on Monday morning after missing three consecutive snatches in the super-heavyweight competition. “Laurel,” who was born a male and lived as a male for 35 years, underwent treatments to make him more like a female seven years ago. In other words, Hubbard had male levels of testosterone coursing through his veins for three and a half decades, giving him lifelong physical advantages over his female competitors.

(Aside: I don’t play semantic games with gender pronouns. When using masculine pronouns, I am referring to an individual born male, with male DNA.)

Hubbard, who was competing in the women’s 87+ kilogram (192 lbs.) division representing New Zealand, failed on all three attempts at his snatch. He bailed out of his 120kg (254 lb.) lift after failing to get it over his head. He pumped his fist in celebration after appearing to get the bar up on his second lift, a 125kg attempt, but the judges ruled it a “no lift.” On his third lift, another 125kg attempt, he was unable to stand up with the weight over his head. Of the 13 finalists in the competition, Hubbard was the only athlete unable to complete a single lift.

Transgender activists, Twitter blue checks, and the complicit media are pointing to Hubbard’s failure as proof that female athletes were not disadvantaged by having a male in the competition.

And MSNBC didn’t waste any time saying that Hubbard’s defeat proves that allowing men to compete in women’s sports does not disadvantage biological females: “If there’s one takeaway from Hubbard’s disappointing finish, it’s that trans women are not a threat to women’s sports.”

Not so fast.

Hubbard, at age 43, is a full decade older than the next oldest athlete in the competition, American Sarah Elizabeth Robles, 33, who won the bronze medal after snatching 128kg, tying the American Olympic record. The rest of the field consisted of athletes in their 20s, including six who are 21 or younger. Both males and females, on average, reach peak performance in weightlifting at age 26, so Hubbard’s best years are behind him.

Nonetheless, as New York Times recently noted, “Hubbard’s performance has improved with age.” Emma Hilton, a developmental biologist at the University of Manchester, told the NYT that Hubbard’s improvement is “completely opposite of typical weightlifters.”

“Either Laurel Hubbard is some kind of once in a lifetime weightlifter, the likes of which we’ve never seen and won’t see again, or she is carrying male advantage,” Hilton said.

Indeed, in the Masters Division (age 40-44) of the International Weightlifting Federation, the governing body for the sport of Olympic weightlifting, the record snatch weight in the 87+ division is 77kg (170 lbs.), which makes Hubbard a unicorn.

Related: PSYOPS: If They Can Make You Believe a Big Strong Man Belongs in the Women’s Division, They Can Make You Believe Anything

Incidentally, many on Twitter are suggesting that Hubbard “threw” the competition in order to make the point that biological women are able to compete fairly alongside biological men. While it’s true that Hubbard has a history of completing lifts at the weight he failed on today, it’s hard to imagine a competitive athlete sacrificing a medal to make a political statement or advance an agenda. Then again, you never know with the left. They’d sell out their own mothers to gain a political advantage.

Despite his age, the New Zealand federation awarded Hubbard a spot on the women’s team, denying a biological female the chance for an Olympic medal.

In June, Tracey Lambrechs, a 2016 Olympian from New Zealand who previously held multiple national weightlifting records in the 87+ kg division, was told by her coach to either drop into a lower weight class or retire.

“The way I found out was via a phone call from my coach at the time. It was like a Monday morning, and I got a phone call and I was told that all my records had just been broken,” Lambrechs explained. “I was like ‘What do you mean? There’s no one else close to me, I shouldn’t have my records broken.'”

“I was told Laurel [Hubbard] has started weightlifting and she competed on the weekend, so ‘as of now, you’re number two,’” Lambrechs said. “I was told by the National Weightlifting body that I either needed to drop a weight category or look at retiring because the competitions that we were looking at qualifying for could only see one per nation in the body weight. So they were like ‘It’s not going to be you, so your options are [to] lose 18 kilos in three months, or you can retire.’ I’m quite competitive so I lost the weight in three months.”

In the end, Lambrechs decided to retire, saying, “I had just had enough. I was disappointed with New Zealand weightlifting, and I was just not willing to put myself through any more disappointment. It wasn’t worth me being upset anymore at the situation and the way I was treated as an athlete.”

“My family all came out to Australia, watched me compete, and that is where I retired and haven’t stepped on a platform since.”

“We’re all about equality for women in sport, but right now, that equality has been taken away from us,” she told TVNZ in June. “Weight lifters come up to me and say, like, what can we do? Like, this isn’t fair, what can we do? And unfortunately, there’s nothing we can do because every time we try to voice it, we get told to be quiet.” [Emphasis added]

In other worse, “Shut up and know your place, woman.” Is this the kind of female empowerment women in the 1960s were fighting for when they burned their bras in the streets?

While Hubbard’s Olympic medal bid ended in failure, the camel has its nose under the tent. It’s only a matter of time before another man—younger and stronger—ascends to the top of the women’s weightlifting leaderboard, displacing biological women and dominating the sport.

It may be time to start burning bras again.