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Laurel Hubbard thanked the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for its “inclusive” stance allowing transgender athletes to compete in events based on gender identity.
Hubbard, who is biologically male, is set to become the first openly transgender person to compete in the Olympics when Hubbard takes part in the women’s weightlifting competition on Monday.
“The Olympic Games are a global celebration of our hopes, our ideals and our values. I commend the IOC for its commitment to making sport inclusive and accessible,” Hubbard said in a statement through the New Zealand Olympic Committee, according to Fox News.
Hubbard’s statement of appreciation came after IOC medical and science director Richard Budgett promoted her participation in the Olympics on Thursday, claiming “everyone agrees that trans women are women,” according to The Guardian. Budgett also said the issue of transgender athletes is “large, difficult and complex.”
“To put it in a nutshell, the IOC had a scientific consensus back in 2015,” Budgett continued. “There are no IOC rules or regulations around transgender participation. That depends on each international federation. So Laurel Hubbard is a woman and 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.”
“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,” the medical and science director added. “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.”
Hubbard’s participation in this year’s Olympic games has been a point of controversy. Retired New Zealand weightlifter and former Olympian Tracey Lambrechs, who lost multiple weightlifting records to Hubbard after Hubbard began competing in women’s competitions, warned that the inclusion of biological males in women’s sports would lead to the end of women’s sports entirely.
“It’s honestly going to knock women out of sport. Women are not going to want to participate in something where there isn’t opportunity for them to win medals or go to international competition,” Lambrechs said in June.
Lambrechs noted in May that while she was competing, she was pressured to not cause controversy over Hubbard’s inclusion in women’s weightlifting. She said the pressure to stay silent is applied to other female athletes who are critical of competing against biological males as well.
“I’ve had female weightlifters come up to me and say, ‘What do we do? This isn’t fair, what do we do?’ Unfortunately, there’s nothing we can do because every time we voice it we get told to be quiet,” Lambrechs said.