The International Olympic Committee again weighed in on the issue of transgender athletes — biological males — competing in women’s Olympic events, appealing to the rules for qualification but also admitting that the IOC is struggling to get a handle on the issue, and that admitting transgender athletes could be a sport-by-sport consideration.
The IOC gave weightlifter Laurel Hubbard, who is biologically male, the “all clear” to compete in the Tokyo Olympics over the weekend, according to Fox News.
“Laurel Hubbard was given the all-clear to compete at the Tokyo Olympics this month even as criticism mounted against the International Olympic Committee over the fairness of her participation,” the outlet noted Monday. “Hubbard became the first transgender woman to qualify for the Olympics last month. At 43 years old, she was able to qualify for the New Zealand team in the 87-kilogram category. She already received support from the IOC about competing as a woman in the competitions, but President Thomas Bach reiterated it Saturday.”
There are clear concerns about Hubbard’s Olympic participation, notably that Hubbard is biologically male.
“Hubbard transitioned eight years ago at the age of 35,” Fox noted. “The IOC has previously said Hubbard has met all the requirements for trans athletes and fair competition. Among those, the athletes must demonstrate that their testosterone level is below a specific measurement for at least 12 months prior to their first competition.”
Hubbard meets those qualifications and will be allowed to compete.
IOC President Thomas Bach did admit that gender identity is a complicated issue with regard to Olympic competition and that the rules that apply to Hubbard may not necessarily apply to other transgender athletes going forward.
“The rules for qualification have been established by the International Weightlifting Federation before the qualifications started,” Bach said over the weekend, “These rules apply, and you cannot change rules during ongoing competitions.”
For other sports, or other events, or other athletes, Bach admitted, the result may not be the same as with Hubbard.
“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 be rules because this is a question where there is no one-size-fits-all solution. It differs from sport to sport,” Bach said.
“The rules are in place and the rules have to be applied and you cannot change the rules during an ongoing qualification system,” he added. “This is what all the athletes of the world are relying on: that the rules are being applied.”
Hubbard noted, according to Reuters, that it is possible the IOC will revisit rules on gender identity and Olympic competition at some later date.
Hubbard is the first transgender athlete to qualify for the Olympics in a women’s event. There are other transgender athletes that competed to qualify, and at least one other male-to-female transgender individual, American BMX rider Chelsea Wolfe, will go to Tokyo, though Wolfe is considered an alternate for women’s BMX.
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