Laurel Hubbard makes Olympics history but fails in medal bid

Laurel Hubbard was participating in 87-kilogram weightlifting event

New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard made history on Monday as the first transgender athlete to compete at the Olympics but failed at her attempt to make the medal stand.

Hubbard failed to register a lift in the snatch in the 87-kilogram category. By failing to record a lift, she couldn’t move onto the clean and jerk and would not compete for a medal.

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Hubbard transitioned eight years ago at the age of 35. Hubbard was 43 entering Olympic competition. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) previously said Hubbard has met all the requirements for trans athletes and fair competition.

Her qualification for the New Zealand team led to a debate over whether it was fair for her to compete in the women’s category. Nevertheless, Hubbard participated at the Tokyo Games without any issue.

Dr. Richard Budgett, the IOC’s medical and science director, backed Hubbard’s right to compete in the Games last week while acknowledging the issue over Hubbard competing was "large, difficult and complex."

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"To put it in a nutshell, the IOC had a scientific consensus back in 2015," Budgett said, via The Guardian. "There are no IOC rules or regulations around transgender participation. That depends on each international federation. So Laurel Hubbard is a woman, and is competing under the rules of her federation, and we have to pay tribute to her courage and tenacity in actually competing and qualifying for the Games."

Budgett said it was tough to flat out say that Hubbard had an advantage by going through male puberty "when there’s many other factors to go into account." He said it wasn’t as simple as it sounded and said each sport should make its own assessment on transgender athlete participation.

"There is a lot of disagreement across the whole world of sport and beyond on this issue of eligibility," he added. "Everyone agrees transgender women are women. But it’s a matter of eligibility for sport, and particular events, and it really has to be very sport specific.

"One of the reasons there is no new framework published yet is not just because of the difficulty in coming to any consensus. It’s because it would have been inappropriate to come out with new guidelines just before the Olympics. There will be a new framework to help individual sports, and we’re working very closely with them, but it’s not published yet."

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Hubbard thanked the IOC for its support after Budgett’s comments.

"The Olympic Games are a global celebration of our hopes, our ideals and our values. I commend the IOC for its commitment to making sport inclusive and accessible," Hubbard said.