New Zealand Prime Minister supports Olympic selection of transgender weightlifters
WELLINGTON, June 22 (Reuters) – New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Tuesday defended transgender weightlifter Laurel Hubbard’s selection for the Tokyo Olympics, a move that has fueled a debate on inclusion and fairness in the sport.
Hubbard will become the first transgender athlete to compete in the Games after being selected for Team New Zealand in the 87 + kg super heavyweight category. Read more
The inclusion of the 43-year-old has divided her supporters, hailing the decision as critics questioned the fairness of transgender athletes competing against women.
“The parties here just followed the rules. Not only Laurel but also the team in New Zealand – they followed the rules,” Ardern told reporters in Wellington.
“The alternative is to have someone who followed the rules but then was denied the opportunity to participate.
“So at the end of the day I leave it to those bodies and that’s the decision they made and it’s up to the standard that has been set globally.”
Hubbard, who will be the oldest weightlifter at the Games, competed in men’s weightlifting before making the transition in 2013.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) issued guidelines in 2015 allowing transgender athletes to compete as women as long as their testosterone levels are below 10 nanomoles per liter for at least 12 months prior to their first competition.
Some scientists have said the guidelines do little to lessen the biological benefits of those who have gone through puberty as men, such as bone and muscle density.
Proponents of transgender inclusion argue that the transition process dramatically diminishes this benefit and that the physical differences between athletes mean that there is never really a level playing field in sport.
The Australian Weightlifting Federation tried to bar Hubbard from competing in the 2018 Commonwealth Games women’s event, but backed her selection for Tokyo.
Australian athlete Charisma Amoe-Tarrant, who will face Hubbard in the 87 + kg division, wished Hubbard good luck.
“I have so much respect for her and (…) I hope we can all come together and enjoy the Olympics,” the 22-year-old Nauru-born told reporters in Brisbane on Tuesday.
Reporting by Praveen Menon; edited by Jane Wardell
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