Major Sports Stars Speak Out Against Transgender Olympic Athlete Laurel Hubbard

NFL legend Brett Favre has joined the chorus of those opposing transgender weightlifter Laurel Hubbard taking part in the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Earlier this week, the New Zealander became the first ever transgender athlete selected to compete at the Olympics after being included in New Zealand's weightlifting team for the upcoming Tokyo Games. Hubbard, who came out as transgender in 2013, had previously competed in the men's events.

Her selection has proved controversial and Favre was the latest to criticize her inclusion, suggesting Hubbard enjoys an unfair advantage.

"It's a man competing as a woman," the former Green Bay Packers quarterback told co-host Eric Bolling on Tuesday, during the latest episode of the Bolling with Favre podcast.

"That's unfair. It's not fair for a man, even if this person wants to be a woman or feels compelled—if you want to become the opposite sex, that's fine. I got no problem with it. But you can't compete against—males cannot compete against females."

"If I was a true female—I can't believe I'm saying that—and I was competing in weightlifting and lost to this person, I would be beside myself."

Those in favor of preventing transgender women from competing in women's sports regularly cite the desire to ensure competitive balance as the cornerstone of their argument. They suggest the male hormones that develop through puberty would give transgender women an unfair advantage because of the strength they confer.

In 2015, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) tweaked its rules to allow transgender athletes to compete as women as long as their testosterone—a hormone that increases muscle mass—levels were below a certain threshold.

Hubbard meets all the IOC requirements, but her participation in the Olympics remains a controversial topic.

"It is flawed policy from the IOC that has allowed the selection of a 43-year-old biological male who identifies as a woman to compete in the female category," Save Women's Sport Australasia, an advocacy group opposing transgender women competing in women's sports, said in a statement on Monday.

Last month, Belgian weightlifter Anna Vanbellinghen, who will compete in the same 87kg category as Hubbard, struck a similar tone.

"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," she said.

"Life-changing opportunities are missed for some athletes—medals and Olympic qualifications—and we are powerless."

Australia's weightlifting federation sought to have Hubbard barred from the 2018 Commonwealth Games, while the BBC reported Samoa's weightlifting coach said her inclusion in New Zealand's Olympic squad was like allowing athletes to "dope."

Some People Are in Favor

Not everyone, however, is against Hubbard's inclusion.

"I have so much respect for her and wish her and the other lifters the best and hope we can all come together and enjoy the Olympics," Charisma Amoe-Tarrant, who will represent Australia in the 87kg category at the Tokyo Olympics, told The Guardian this week.

"Because this Olympics right now is quite different compared to others. I've competed with her previously and always had good chats with her, I just wish her well."

The merits of allowing transgender women to compete according to the sex they identify with has long been a source of debate.

In February 2019, 18-time Grand Slam singles champion Martina Navratilova argued that allowing transgender women to compete in women's sports was "insane" and akin to "cheating."

In a column in Britain's Sunday Times newspaper, Navratilova, a gay rights campaigner, wrote: "To put the argument at its most basic: a man can decide to be female, take hormones if required by whatever sporting organisation is concerned, win everything in sight and perhaps earn a small fortune, and then reverse his decision and go back to making babies if he so desires.

"It's insane and it's cheating. I am happy to address a transgender woman in whatever form she prefers, but I would not be happy to compete against her. It would not be fair."

A month later, three-time New York Marathon champion Paula Radcliffe echoed Navratilova's point.

"If you are born and grow up male you cannot be allowed to compete in female sports simply because you 'identify' as female," she tweeted.

"It makes a mockery of the definitions of male and female sports categories."

Delicate Issue in the U.S.

British Olympic medalists Sharron Davies and Kelly Holmes have both made similar points in the past.

The issue is just as delicate in the U.S.

In March, Tennessee joined Idaho in banning trans women from competing on teams according to their gender identity.

Republican representatives in Florida and Utah have introduced bills seeking to ban transgender women from competing in women's sports and lawmakers in Arkansas and Missouri are considering similar bills and constitutional amendments.

News of Hubbard's participation at the 2020 Olympics came just a day before Washington Spirit forward Kumi Yokoyama came out as a transgender.

"I'm coming out now," Yokoyama said in a video published on former teammate Yuki Nagasato's YouTube channel. "In the future, I want to quit soccer and live as a man."

New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard
Laurel Hubbard of New Zealand competes in the Women's +90kg Final during the Weightlifting on day five of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games at Carrara Sports and Leisure Centre on April 9, 2018, on the Gold Coast, Australia. Hubbard will represent New Zealand at the Tokyo Olympics. Dan Mullan/Getty Images