IOC praises trans weightlifter Laurel Hubbard before athlete’s Olympic debut
"We have to pay tribute to her courage and tenacity"
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has praised New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard ahead of her becoming the first transgender athlete to compete at the Olympics.
There has been fierce debate in the buildup to the games surrounding Hubbard's participation. Her supporters have hailed it as a historic moment for trans rights, whilst critics have said that her participation is unfair as she has an unfair and substantial advantage.
One competitor went as far as to describe Hubbard's participation in the Olympics as like a like a "bad joke."
But the IOC's medical and science director, Dr Richard Budgett, has said that "everyone agrees that trans women are women" and backed her participation.
Speaking at a news conference, Budgett said: "To put it in a nutshell, the IOC had a scientific consensus back in 2015.
"There are no IOC rules or regulations around transgender participation. That depends on each international federation. So Laurel Hubbard is a woman, is competing under the rules of her federation and we have to pay tribute to her courage and tenacity in actually competing and qualifying for the Games."
Budgett said the question of whether the weightlifter would have an alleged advantage from going through male puberty was uncertain, and stressed the importance of inclusivity.
"There are lots of aspects of physiology and anatomy, and the mental side, that contribute to an elite performance. It's very difficult to say, 'yes, she has an advantage because she went through male puberty,' when there's so many other factors to take into account," he said.
"It's not simple. Each sport has to make their own assessment depending on the physiology of that sport, so that they can ensure there is fair competition, but also the inclusion of everyone – whether they're male or female – so they are able to take part in the sport they love."
Budgett continued: "There is a lot of disagreement across the whole world of sport and beyond on this issue of eligibility.
"Everyone agrees transgender women are women. But it's a matter of eligibility for sport, and particular events, and it really has to be very sport-specific.
"One of the reasons there is no new framework published yet is not just because of the difficulty in coming to any consensus. It's because it would have been inappropriate to come out with new guidelines just before the Olympics. There will be a new framework to help individual sports and we’re working very closely with them, but it’s not published yet."