(FiveNation.com)- After failing to complete a single lift at the Tokyo Olympics, New Zealand’s transgender weightlifter Laurel Hubbard announced that he would retire from competition.
Hubbard, who was born Gavin, decided to “transition” to a woman back in 2012, and “made history” by becoming the first transgender athlete to compete in a solo event at the Olympics. But Hubbard’s moment in the spotlight didn’t work out as planned – failing to record a single valid “snatch” lift in Tokyo.
The 43-year-old Hubbard said that age caught up with him. Which makes sense. Not only is he the first man to compete against women; he’s also the oldest weightlifter to compete in women’s Olympic weightlifting.
Under guidelines adopted in 2003, the Olympic Committee only allowed transgender athletes to compete if they have already undergone sex reassignment surgery. However in 2015, that requirement was dropped and the IOC instead made participation dependent on testosterone levels rather than surgery.
However, the Olympic governing body recently announced that the guidelines will be changed again after the Tokyo games, saying the current guidelines should be adapted to catch up with advances in science and testing. Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, the new rules will let each individual sport determine its own guidelines.
Hubbard was allowed to compete against women based on the 2015 guidelines that were adopted by the International Weightlifting Federation. Transgender athletes can compete against women provided that their testosterone levels are below 10 nanomoles per liter.
However, some in the weightlifting community argued that even that amount of testosterone is five times higher than that among actual women. What’s more, some scientists say the Olympic guidelines do not take into account the biological advantages among transgenders who underwent puberty as males — including both bone and muscle density.
But the expected advantage didn’t pan out for Hubbard. While the loss of testosterone may be part of the reason; it is likely that the twenty-year age difference between Hubbard and the women competing against him had much more to do with it.
In the end, an athlete may be able change his testosterone levels, but he cannot change his age.