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A former New Zealand Olympic weightlifter has spoken out on transgender women participating in sports against biological women, claiming she wasn’t allowed to speak on the topic during her time on the team.
Tracey Lambrechs — who took bronze in the 2014 Commonwealth Games, silver at the 2015 Pacific Games, and competed in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro — shared her thoughts on transgender athletes in an interview published in National Review on Tuesday.
The weightlifter mentioned a situation where she had to quickly lose weight to be able to compete in order to make room for a transgender woman on the team, calling it “very upsetting and stressful.” That transgender woman was Laurel Hubbard, the fellow New Zealand weightlifter who is set to compete in the Tokyo Olympics as the first transgender athlete in the history of the games after she met several eligibility requirements, Yahoo Sports reports.
Lambrechs detailed that in 2017, she was preparing to participate in the 2018 Commonwealth Games when she was informed that she would need to do it in a lower weight class to make room for Hubbard, who had competed in men’s competitions until 2013.
“I was told if I wanted to go to the next Commonwealth Games, I needed to lose 18 kilograms [the equivalent of almost 40 pounds] in three months or retire,” Lambrechs said. “Losing that much weight quickly was not ideal for my health, and I suffered some severe migraines and started passing out a lot.”
Hubbard was a silver medalist at the 2017 world championships and earned sixth at the 2019 world championships before suffering a severe injury, OutKick’s Joe Kinsey previously reported.
“Psychologically speaking, it’s very upsetting and stressful,” she said about the initial reaction to her concerns, per Yahoo Sports. “We were told not to talk to the media and were warned that if we did, we could bring the sport into disrepute and then could miss out on being selected or could be dropped from national teams. The sport’s national body did not know how to handle the situation, so they had a knee-jerk reaction and thought silence would be best for them.”
Lambrechs said her stance is not about an antipathy of transgender people or a decision not to recognize them, but about the sport itself.
“At the end of the day, this hasn’t been easy for Laurel, either. The outcome I’m hoping for is the safety of women’s sports and the inclusion of transgendered athletes where they can participate in sport at whatever level and not be bullied or harassed,” she said. “Everybody has the right to be who they are and happy.”
Hubbard has been eligible to compete at Olympics since 2015, when the International Olympic Committee issued guidelines allowing any transgender athlete to compete as a woman provided their testosterone levels are below 10 nanomoles per liter for at least 12 months before their first competition.
“If this continues to happen, eventually biological men competing as women will dominate all women’s sports,” OutKick’s Clay Travis said. “Gonna be interesting to see the identity politics collide here.”
Transgender athletes have become a commanding narrative in recent months leading up to the Olympic games. While many argue that allowing individuals to compete against those who share their gender identity and not their biological sex gives them an unfair advantage, others argue that such exclusion is discriminatory.
Former competitive swimmer Sharron Davies, who represented Great Britain at the Olympics, said that “natal females cannot be excluded from their own support” and has even shared petitions collecting signatures to “suspend the International Olympic Committee’s transgender policy.”
During a 2019 interview with Sky News, the former swimmer stressed she was not transphobic but argued that transgender athletes had an unfair advantage.
“If you’re a transgender woman, you would have spent a fair bit of your life and puberty as a man — or as a boy — and you would have the male benefits that would give you and that makes it an unfair playing field for other women,” she said. “I think this is just about sport, I don’t think this needs to get personal.”
When asked how transwomen have an advantage if they are meeting the necessary hormone requirements — like getting tested for and meeting testosterone requirements before competitions — Davies said things like the differences in the male skeletal system, lung capacity, red blood cell count, pelvis and more all come into the conversation.