OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Veronica Malone has a lot of Olympic memories. From 1968 to 2016, she helped coach swimmers in the Olympic Trials, many of whom advanced to the Olympic Games.
This summer, the Olathe, Kansas, woman will make a new memory: she’ll watch the first transgender athlete to compete in the Olympics.
Laurel Hubbard, a weightlifter from New Zealand, secured her spot on the Olympic team last month.
“She’s done it within the rules that presently exist, so that is how I see it, I feel she’s earned her spot,” Malone said of Hubbard.
Malone herself transitioned after retiring from the Kansas City Blazers swim team she helped create.
“It wasn’t that you can’t do it, you just have to figure out how you’re going to do it,” Malone explained. “That’s always been my attitude toward things.”
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) first adopted rules allowing transgender athletes to compete in 2003 and last updated them in 2015.
Current rules state women transitioning to men can compete without conditions. Men who transitioned to women must maintain a female gender deceleration for four years and test below 10 nanomoles per liter of testosterone for one year prior to competing.
The Associated Press reported the IOC will modify those conditions following the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
The NCAA follows basically the same set of standards for its student-athletes. Individual states often set their own standards for high school activities.
“We’ve always felt like the [rules for transgender athletes] should all run in harmony [across all levels of competition],” Malone said.
She admitted an athlete like Hubbard, who transitioned in her 30s, has a different physiological makeup than an athlete who transitions as a teenager, most likely giving her an advantage.
Malone pointed out other “rough spots” in the Olympic Committee’s rules, like a lack of guidance on what kind of swimsuits transgender athletes can wear and which locker rooms they use.
“Some people have a really hard time with this topic and that's why having an open dialogue and education about it is important,” added Catherine Fox, a gold medalist in 1996 and swimmer for Malone.
She admires Malone for keeping the conversation going. Malone waives away recognition, saying it’s an obligation.
“Being authentic hasn’t been just a cake walk,” Malone said. “But I believe in the Olympics, I believe in fairness and I believe in making the world better, if I have the privilege to live.”