Watching and reading the reaction to the story about Laurel Hubbard, the transgender weightlifter selected for the Australia International in 10 days time, has reinforced my belief that this unique junction of sport, science and ethical considerations requires a lot more analysis and reasoned debate.

While the idea of transgender or gender fluidity is not new, it's application in the professional, high-performance sporting world is a relatively modern phenomenon.

It is a fraught subject. The majority of people I canvassed before publishing the story were conflicted between their adherence to the principles of basic human rights and the need for sport to be performed on a level playing field. In essence, we are talking about fair play and, in this case, what is fair for Hubbard just might not be fair for her competitors.

These are nebulous concepts with ample room for interpretation, and this is where the International Olympic Committee, Fifa and other large sporting federations need to provide strong leadership. Perhaps, and I cannot believe I'm writing this, the IOC have already shown decent, progressive leadership in the Consensus Meeting of November 2015.


However carefully worded the guidelines are, it is hard not to believe these will be challenged in the coming years by those who feel they have been "cheated" out of medals and selection. This document might have to remain a living thing, changing as the science of human performance no doubt will.

Few people with humanity begrudge those who feel trapped in the wrong gender to make an informed choice to transition from male to female, female to male, or from somewhere in the middle of the gender spectrum to somewhere else.

Hubbard, who has transitioned from male to female should be allowed to compete as a woman - your instinct tells you that is fair - and yet ... is it?

There is a widespread belief that testosterone reduction alone will not counter the inherent advantages Hubbard accrued from training and competing as a man for the majority of her life. The stark differences in her ability to lift weights in comparison to her next competitor, Rio Olympian Tracey Lambrechs, gives a certain credibility to this belief.

How, then, do you determine fairness?

This is an issue that is only ever going to affect a tiny majority of athletes. A UCLA study estimated there were just 700,000 transgender people in the US, about 0.3 per cent of the population.

Extrapolated to New Zealand, that would mean a community of about 13,000. But it will take only a few dominant transgender athletes at the Olympics to turn a tiny minority into a very big argument.

Very big arguments tend to become emotional, rather than rational.

And not many good decisions are ever made on emotion.


The Warriors were a bit of fun, weren't they, wrapping up all facets of a typical season in 80 sun-splashed minutes.

There was a spluttering start, a red-hot patch where a try seemed likely with every possession, some grinding incompetence, a touch of referee angst, poor defence, a final flourish and two hard-fought points at home against a team picked by most as a lock for the wooden spoon.

New coach, new captain, familiar themes.

But there's one memory I'll take from that game and it's not a good one: Ken Maumalo.

Let me count the ways your actions with three minutes left were dumb, Ken.

1. It was a cheap shot. Jamie Buhrer couldn't see you coming, so your half slap, half push of his head was never going to be defended by him. Yeah, it wasn't a particularly violent act, but why bother.

2. The whole idea of celebrating opponents' errors is a scourge that is creeping increasingly into the NRL, the vulgar equivalent of the fielding team sledging a dismissed batsman in cricket. I know, I know, it happened to you earlier in the game, but be better than that.

3. To take the idea of celebrating a mistake even further by pushing somebody's head is, well, just that little bit more witless.

4. It could have cost your team the game. The only way back for Newcastle at that late stage was to get a piggyback penalty and prime field position. The referee could so easily have ruled against you when you made contact with Buhrer's head. Imagine how you'd feel this week if your team had dropped a home game against the weakest squad in the competition and it was, basically, your fault.

5. You pulled your team-mates into a fight they didn't need or want at that stage of the game. No wonder Ryan Hoffman, who had literally dragged the Warriors back in front minutes earlier, looked like he wanted to thump you.

6. If it was retaliation for the ribbing you got earlier in the game, congratulations, opponents now know how easy it is to get inside your head. Unless you find a more constructive way to channel your frustrations, you're going to be in for a long season.

And it is a long season. I'm guessing as a self-confessed "mummy's boy" that you know you let yourself and nearly your team down there. You're 22, as well, and green as grass, so in the long run, making mistakes is going to be just as instructive as the plaudits your obvious talent will win.

I'm guessing you also know there's a big winger waiting to reclaim the spot he's held for most of the past 12 years.

Be a bit smarter.


Nobody has done their prospects for advancement up the coaching ladder any more good than Hurricanes attack mentor Jason Holland, whose team has accrued a bonkers 144 points in the opening two weeks of the Super Rugby season. Other ridiculous stats include an average of 790.5m per game (next best, Crusaders 602m), 32 clean breaks (next best, Lions and Chiefs 14) and 42.5 defenders beaten (next best, Lions 25.5).

There's a rather large caveat in that the Hurricanes have played two teams that won't feature this year beyond July 15. There'll be tougher weeks to come, but don't be surprised if the quietly ambitious Holland, who has built up a winning resume as an assistant in both hemispheres, takes a good, hard look for a high-profile head-coaching job soon.


This article on the 1972 Munich Games tragedy is the most captivating piece in a terrific Deadspin series on sports photojournalism.

Things are unravelling at what was once considered the poster-team for clean cycling, Team Sky. Here, the Guardian's Will Fotheringham explains why their hallowed mentor must quit.