In an Olympian-sized development, a transgender athlete has been selected to compete as part of the New Zealand women’s weightlifting team for the Tokyo Olympics beginning next month.
Laurel Hubbard, 43, will be the first transgender competitor to participate in Olympic history.
“I am grateful and humbled by the kindness and support that has been given to me by so many New Zealanders,” Laurel Hubbard, 43, said in a statement.
A BBC story included Hubbard’s specifics fit the rules, that in 2015, the International Olympic Committee began allowing transgender athletes to seek qualification as long as their testosterone level is below a certain level and maintained for a year.
Hubbard was born male and transitioned to female in her 30s.
This subject continues to be a lightning rod for controversy.
First, the testosterone level (10 nanomoles per liter of testosterone), according to the BBC report, is roughly five times more than a biological woman.
Hubbard, who lifted 628 pounds in two lifts to qualify for Tokyo, is seen by some to clearly have an unfair advantage.
New Zealand Olympic Committee CEO Kereyn Smith said Hubbard has the IOC benchmarks for competition in Tokyo.
“We acknowledge that gender identity in sport is a highly sensitive and complex issue requiring a balance between human rights and fairness on the field of play,” Smith said.
“As the New Zealand Team, we have a strong culture of manaaki (hospitality) and inclusion and respect for all.”
Belgium’s Anna Vanbellinghen, among Hubbard’s likely fellow competitors, said Hubbard’s presence would be “like a bad joke” for women competitors.
“Life-changing opportunities are missed for some athletes — medals and Olympic qualifications — and we are powerless.”
The Games begin July 23 and run through Aug. 8.