New Zealand transgender weightlifter Laurel Hubbard acknowledged the controversy surrounding the athlete’s participation in the women’s +87kg weightlifting at the Tokyo Olympics.
“Thank you so very much for your interest in my humble sporting performance tonight,” Hubbard told reporters following three failed lifts, according to The Blaze. “I know from a sporting perspective I did not live up to the standards I put upon myself.”
“I know my participation in these games has not been entirely without controversy,” the weightlifter said, before praising the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
In Hubbard’s first attempt, the weightlifter tried to lift 120kg and failed.
In the 43-year-old’s second attempt, Hubbard lifted a very shaky 125kg overhead. One of the female commentators noted that it was very surprising that the questionable 125kg lift wasn’t challenged with an appeal.
However, later, the jury ruled the try a “no lift,” according to ESPN.
On the third attempt, Hubbard could not lift the 125kg, bouncing the weightlifter from the competition.
That is “the end of Laurel Hubbard,” the announcer said, as Hubbard waved to the cameras and to those at the competition.
“[The IOC has] been extraordinarily supportive, and I think that they have reaffirmed the principles of the Olympics that sport is something that all people around the world can do, that it is inclusive and successful,” Hubbard added.
A biological male who identifies as a woman, Hubbard formerly participated in men’s weightlifting before identifying as a woman and receiving approval to compete against biological women, even at the Olympic level.
Critics, including female athletes and female weightlifters, spoke out about Hubbard’s participation in women’s athletics, noting of unfair advantages biological men have over women, including even post-hormone therapy, as a British Journal of Sports Medicine study suggests.
It’s also of note that Hubbard is 43 years old — far older than any of Hubbard’s female competitors at the Tokyo Olympics.
Female weightlifter Anna Vanbellinghen spoke out about the issue, likening the prospect of competing against Hubbard to “a bad joke.”
“I understand that for sports authorities nothing is as simple as following your common sense, and that there are a lot of impracticalities when studying such a rare phenomenon, but for athletes the whole thing feels like a bad joke,” Vanbellinghem said.
As Hubbard noted, though, the athlete has had support from the Olympics.
IOC medical and science director Dr. Richard Budgett last week, for example, praised the trans weightlifter and claimed that “everyone agrees that trans women are women.”
“To put it in a nutshell, the IOC had a scientific consensus back in 2015,” Budgett explained. “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,” the doctor said.
“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,” Budgett said.
“It’s not simple,” he added. “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.”