News (World)

Olympics reject calls to remove Laurel Hubbard from competing in weightlifting

Laurel Hubbard
Laurel Hubbard Photo: YouTube screenshot/Radio New Zealand

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will continue to follow their guidance and will not ban a transgender athlete from participating in the upcoming Olympic Games.

“The rules for qualification have been established by the International Weightlifting Federation before the qualifications started. These rules apply, and you cannot change rules during ongoing competitions,” IOC President Thomas Bach said in Tokyo this week.

Related: 30 out athletes are representing Team USA at the Olympics in Tokyo

The confirmation ended any speculation that the IOC would bow to pressure and try to prevent Laurel Hubbard from participating in the games.

Since 2004, the Olympics have allowed for trans athletes to compete, and they updated their guidance in 2015. These will be the first games where an openly trans athlete will participate.

While trans athletes are allowed by the IOC, they only set the guidelines for athlete participation, but there are sporting federation tasked with regulating each sport and determining the rules. Women, cisgender or transgender, can also get excluded based on their hormone levels, if they don’t fall into the range set by the IOC or regulating agencies.

Caster Semenya, Christine Mboma and Beatrice Masilingi have all been excluded from Olympic events based on their natural testosterone levels. All three women are cisgender and from nations in Africa.

“The rules are in place and the rules have to be applied and you cannot change the rules during an ongoing qualification system,” Bach stated according to Reuters. “This is what all the athletes of the world are relying on: that the rules are being applied.”

He did note, however, that the Olympics will have “an inquiry phase with all different stakeholders… to review these rules and finally to come up with some guidelines.”

Hubbard is a trans woman that was selected to compete in weightlifting for New Zealand. She became the first trans athlete confirmed to a spot on an Olympic team earlier this year.

“As well as being among the world’s best for her event, Laurel has met the IWF eligibility criteria including those based on IOC Consensus Statement guidelines for transgender athletes,” Kereyn Smith, the CEO of the New Zealand Olympic Committee, said along with the announcement of her selection.

She’ll represent the island nation in the women’s super-heavyweight 87+kg category.

A petition was raised calling for the Olympics to remove her. It had garnered over 21,000 signatures by July 5.

Hubbard has previously medaled at the 2017 World Weightlifting Championships and at the 2019 Pacific Games in the heaviest categories of weightlifting, and she is now set to compete at the Olympics in Tokyo.

Hubbard would also be the oldest lifter at the Tokyo games at age 43. She suffered a major injury at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia, but came back to win the gold at the Pacific Games the next year.

She’s currently ranked 16th in the world in women’s weightlifting, and several people ranked above her won’t be at the Olympics because the number of athletes each country can send is being limited due to COVID-19 by the IWF.

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