Life-changing opportunities are missed

Seriously bad joke.

A Belgian weightlifter says dealing with transgender issues in sport is “impossible” but the presence of Laurel Hubbard in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic games is “like a bad joke” to women athletes.

The women athletes have been keeping quiet, though, for all the reasons we know about.

Anna Vanbellinghen of Belgium has broken the athletes’ silence with a considered statement on Hubbard’s achievement.

Vanbellinghen has a chance of qualifying in the same weight category, the over-87-kilogram super-heavyweights, and is therefore directly affected by the presence of Hubbard, who transitioned to female at the age of 35.

Others have voiced outrage at Hubbard’s presence in women’s sport, most often on social media, but Vanbellinghen is not making a personal criticism.

“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.

Why would she “like to” stress that? Because of the relentless bullying that greets any complaints about male athletes stealing women’s prizes.

This athlete’s identity can be a dandelion or a wheelbarrow or the moons of Venus, it doesn’t matter, the point is what he is in fact, which is a person with a male body, aka a man.

“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.”

Vanbellinghen, 27, whose qualifying efforts were disrupted by injury, pointed out that the retained benefit of taking steroids, even years earlier, is widely known.

“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]?

“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.”

Well, that’s being a woman. Life’s tough.

A similar point was made by Jerry Wallwork, President of the Samoan Weightlifting Federation, which has had athletes competing against Hubbard since she transitioned in 2017.

“I was one of the people who opposed it [having Hubbard in Olympic qualifying] greatly back in 2018,” Wallwork said.

But I do feel that we cannot keep throwing mud at Laurel and blaming her, even though our female athletes are in direct competition with her and could miss out on competing at the Olympic Games.”

No, I disagree. Wallwork says it’s the IOC’s doing, and that’s true, and they suck, but it’s Hubbard’s doing too, and I think we absolutely can keep saying so. He’s blatantly cheating, and he knows it, and it’s simply revolting.

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