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Friday 7 May 2021 – A group advocating for women’s sport, Save Women’s Sport Australasia, have questioned the fairness of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) transgender guidelines, which have enabled New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard to likely become the first transgender athlete to compete at the Tokyo Olympics.

Save Women’s Sport Australasia’s spokeswomen, Ro Edge, says: “Typically, male and female weightlifters achieve their peak in their mid-twenties, then performance declines with increasing age. But because of an obvious and significant biological advantage, 43-year-old Hubbard has outperformed every New Zealand female weightlifter operating at their peak in the same class, thereby costing them the opportunity to represent their country at the highest level.”

“Everyone is entitled to participate in sport and should be encouraged to. We divide sport by sex, age, and capability to ensure fairness and player safety. We understand the desire to be inclusive of diversity, however this should not be at the expense of potential injuries and opportunities for biological women.”

While male divisions are open to transwomen, many do not want to compete in the category of their biological sex. One possible solution is to change the male category to ‘open’ so it is more inclusive to gender diverse people, while ensuring the female category is protected, excluding everyone with male, and residual male, advantage.

Ms Edge says: “Ideological belief about the supremacy of ‘gender identity’ over evidence of biological sex underpinned the IOC decision to implement their transgender guidelines in 2015. This decision signalled to the global sports community that it is the feelings of male athletes that take precedence over female athletes. The downstream impact on sports organisations and community sports is devastating.”

Save Women’s Sports wrote to the IOC highlighting concerns with their transgender guidelines in June of last year, asking them to suspend and review them with immediate effect. The IOC responded, stating that a last-minute suspension of the consensus would be “neither fair, nor ethical or legally admissible” to those athletes who had qualified under these guidelines.

Ro says: “This is tantamount to the IOC saying that they know this absurd manner of performance enhancement is happening - that it greatly exceeds the doping advantage - but it is “neither fair, nor ethical or legally admissible” to consider stopping this particular form of doping before the Tokyo Olympic Games.”

“The IOC's decision also directly contravenes the international treaty obligations of the 189 states who have ratified CEDAW since its inception in 1979.  Biological females have the express right not to be discriminated against on the basis of their sex in relation to opportunities to participate actively and equally in sports. Allowing biological males to compete in the female division removes the basis of equality between men and women.”

Under IOC guidelines, issued in November 2015, athletes who identify as female can compete in the women’s category provided their total testosterone level in serum is kept below 10 nanomoles per litre for at least 12 months. Testosterone is about ten times lower in females, with “normal” levels considered to be between 0.3 and 2.4 nmol/L.

There have been two academic reviews of musculoskeletal changes in transwomen suppressing testosterone which clearly demonstrate that trans athletes have an ‘unfair’ advantage over other women. The first review is Hilton and Lundberg, 2020, published in Sports Medicine, and the second Harper et al., 2021, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Both conclude that loss of muscle mass and strength is small, and that strength advantage over females is retained.

- ENDS –

About Save Women’s Sport Australasia

Formed in 2020, Save Women’s Sport Australasia are part of an international coalition of women's organizations, athletes, and supporters of women in sport who assert that natal male athletes should not compete in female sports.

Media Contact:

Ro Edge

Notes to the editor:

Hilton and Lundberg, 2020 review:

Harper et al., 2021 review

May 7th 2021 - Questions raised about fairness in Olympics qualification criteria

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