Peter Williams: Transgender athletes aren't cheating - but not fair

OPINION: The arguments have started again - should a person born male, but transitions to a female, be allowed to compete in women's sports events.

The issue is back in the news because Laurel Hubbard is back in the New Zealand weightlifting team for the Arafura Games in Darwin next month.

That comes a couple of days after Martina Navratilova - one of the best tennis players of all time and an absolute champion for gay rights - wrote this in the Sunday Times in London:

"A man can decide to be female, take hormones as required by whatever sporting organisation is concerned, win everything in sight and perhaps earn a fortune, and then reverse his decision and go back to making babies, if he desires.

"It's insane and it's cheating."

She's subsequently backtracked on using the word "cheating", but stands by pretty much the rest of what she wrote and the LBGQT community has come down on her big time.

The community that used to embrace her because of her outspokenness on the rights of gay people, since she came out nearly 40 years ago is now very unhappy with her, because she's insulted male-to-female trans-gender athletes - people like Laurel Hubbard.

Another high-profile former international sportswoman Sharon Davies, the English Olympic and Commonwealth Games swimmer from about 35 years ago, has been heavily criticised for saying pretty much the same things as Navratilova, yet it's hard to disagree with them.

Tennis legend Martina Navratilova
Tennis legend Martina Navratilova. Photo credit: Photosport

The IOC allows the likes of Laurel Hubbard to compete because she has lowered testosterone levels and has proven that, in the women's 90kg weightlifting class, she's world class, and a potential world and Olympic champion.

She already has a world championship silver medal and would have won a Commonwealth Games gold medal, if she'd just gone for gold, instead of extending herself trying to break a record. We all saw what happened then.

There's also the downhill mountain biker in New Zealand, Kate Weatherley, who won the national title a year ago, less than a month after competing as a man.

But she complied with the rules, she was allowed in and she won easily.

There's the problem - transgender athletes have rights to compete in the agenda they now identify with, but other athletes have rights too - the right to believe they will be taking part in a fair competition.

Despite testosterone being reduced to IOC standards, the reality is a person born male will be stronger than a person born female. That's just how life works.

I don't think, as Martina Navratilova says, it's cheating to compete as a woman after being born male, but I certainly think it's unfair on other competitors and that's the problem.

Everybody has rights to fairness and I don't think a transgender woman competing in sports where strength and stamina are key attributes, like weightlifting and mountain-biking, is fair.

This issue isn't going away.

For now, no trans-athlete has won a world championship or Olympic gold medal, but I reckon that day isn't far away.

Now that Laurel Hubbard is back competing, she may well be the one that makes sure this issue remains front and centre.

Peter Williams is Magic Talk morning radio show host.