Tokyo Olympics: Hubbard praised for her 'courage' as transgender weightlifter prepares for Games debut

By Sports Desk July 29, 2021

New Zealand's transgender weightlifter Laurel Hubbard has demonstrated "courage and tenacity" on her Tokyo 2020 mission, Olympics medical chief Richard Budgett said.

Hubbard's case has triggered controversy as critics believe she has an unfair advantage over her rivals, having been assigned male at birth and competed in men's weightlifting during her teens and early twenties.

Now 43, Hubbard is set for her Games bow on Monday in the +87kg category, having previously won two silver medals at the World Championships.

"Laurel Hubbard is a woman and is competing under the rules of her federation. We have to pay tribute to her courage and tenacity in actually competing and qualifying for the Games," said Richard Budgett.

Budgett, who is the medical and scientific director of Tokyo 2020 and the International Olympic Committee, was an Olympic rowing gold medallist for Great Britain at the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

Looking at Hubbard's case, Budgett said: "When it comes to the advantages and disadvantages, there's always more to learn, there's always more science, and there's quite a large amount of research being done at the moment to ascertain the residual advantage after going through male puberty.

"But you have to weigh that against all the other disadvantages of going through transition. It's not something any individual would ever take lightly.

"So there are lots of aspects of physiology and anatomy and the mental side that contribute to an elite performance and it's very difficult to say she's got an advantage because she went through male puberty when there's so many other factors to take into account.

"Each sport has to make its own assessment depending on the physiology of that sport, so that they can ensure there is fair competition but also inclusion of everyone whether they're male or female, able to take part in the sport that they so love."

Hubbard's case has drawn widespread attention, from within sport and beyond. The actor John Cleese last year said it was "an example of great unfairness to women who have never had a man's body".

Former American football quarterback Brett Favre described the scenario on his podcast as "a man competing as a woman" and added: "If I was a true female – I can't believe I'm saying that – and I was competing in weightlifting and lost to this person, I would be beside myself."

According to Budgett, sports are continuing to analyse cases such as Hubbard's.

"There is lots of disagreement across the whole world of sport," he said. "It really has to be sport specific and up to each sport, and even each discipline, as to what the rules are.

"It would have been inappropriate to come out with a new framework or guidelines just before the Olympics. There will be a new framework, with the help of international federations, but it is not published yet."

Canadian footballer Quinn became the first openly trans athlete to compete in the Olympic Games when they played for Canada against Japan in the women's tournament last week.

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