Sports

First Transgender Athlete To Compete At Olympics.

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Critics say Hubbard has an unfair advantage, but others have argued for more inclusion at the Games. Photo Courtesy

New Zealand’s Laurel Hubbard has become the first-ever transgender athlete picked to compete at an Olympics, in a controversial decision.

Officials have selected her for the women’s weightlifting team for Tokyo 2020 after qualifying requirements were recently modified.

She had competed in men’s events before coming out as transgender in 2013.

Critics say Hubbard has an unfair advantage, but others have argued for more inclusion at the Games.

“I am grateful and humbled by the kindness and support that has been given to me by so many New Zealanders,” Hubbard said in a statement issued by the New Zealand Olympic Committee on Monday.

Critics say Hubbard has an unfair advantage, but others have argued for more inclusion at the Games. Photo Courtesy

She will compete in the women’s 87-kg weightlifting category.

The 43-year-old became eligible to compete at the Olympics when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 2015 changed its rules allowing transgender athletes to compete as a woman if their testosterone levels are below a certain threshold.

Testosterone is a hormone that increases muscle mass.

Controversial choice

While the athlete’s testosterone levels are below that threshold, critics say her participation in the Olympics is still unfair for female-born athletes.

They have pointed to the biological advantages of those who have gone through puberty as males, such as increased bone and muscle density.

Last month, Belgian weightlifter Anna Vanbellinghen, who is competing in the same category, said that if Hubbard were to compete in Tokyo it would be unfair for women and “like a bad joke”.

In recent years there has been growing awareness of transgender rights. Photo Courtesy

She said that while she fully supported the transgender community, the principle of inclusion should not be “at the expense of others”.

“Anyone that has trained weightlifting at a high level knows this to be true in their bones: this particular situation is unfair to the sport and to the athletes,” she said in May. “Life-changing opportunities are missed for some athletes – medals and Olympic qualifications – and we are powerless.”

Felicity Gitonga

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