The International Olympic Committee is officially confirming weightlifter Laurel Hubbard's spot on Team New Zealand at this year's Summer Olympics in Tokyo, officially making her the first out transgender athlete to compete in the games.
According to a report from Reuters, the IOC backed New Zealand's selection of Hubbard as one of the nation's five weightlifting representatives because she met all the criteria set by the International Weightlifting Federation and the IOC itself back in 2015. (Women athletes wishing to compete in the games must have testosterone levels that are below 10 nanomoles per liter for at least 12 months before their first competition, Reuters reports.)
"The rules for qualification have been established by the International Weightlifting Federation before the qualifications started," Thomas Bach, the IOC's president, said in a statement following their decision to honor New Zealand's selection of Hubbard, who is competing in the women's super-heavyweight 87+kg category. "These rules apply, and you cannot change rules during ongoing competitions."
"At the same time the IOC is in an inquiry phase with all different stakeholders...to review these rules and finally to come up with some guidelines which cannot rule because this is a question where there is no one-size-fits-all solution," he continued, saying that the IOC is currently reviewing its guidelines for transgender inclusion in the Olympics. "It differs from sport to sport."
"The rules are in place and the rules have to be applied and you cannot change the rules during an ongoing qualification system," Bach said. "This is what all the athletes of the world are relying on: that the rules are being applied."
This isn't the first instance of Hubbard receiving professional support about her participation in the Olympics.
"Laurel has shown grit and perseverance in her return from a significant injury and overcoming the challenges in building back confidence on the competition platform," Olympic Weightlifting New Zealand President Richie Patterson said in the statement. "Laurel is an astute student of the sport and technically very good with the lifts. We look forward to supporting her in her final preparations towards Tokyo."
Though Hubbard's inclusion in the Olympic games is groundbreaking, her participation was met with some anti-trans rhetoric from critics who say it's "not fair" for trans athletes to compete in the same category as their cisgender peers.
Still, the IOC backing Hubbard and Team New Zealand is a history-making moment when it comes to trans representation in the mainstream sports world, and something Hubbard is immensely thankful for.
"I am grateful and humbled by the kindness and support that has been given to me by so many New Zealanders," Hubbard said in a statement last month when news of her selection to compete in the Olympics and to represent her home country of New Zealand first broke.
"When I broke my arm at the Commonwealth Games three years ago, I was advised that my sporting career had likely reached its end," she continued. "But your support, your encouragement, and your aroha [a Maori word meaning "love"] carried me through the darkness."
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