Weightlifter Laurel Hubbard has broken her silence to the media as she gears up to become the first openly transgender athlete to compete at the Olympic Games.
The 43-year-old New Zealander kicks off her competition this Monday in Tokyo, having qualified under International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) rules to take part in the 87+kg category at the Olympics.
With Hubbard having previously competed as a man before transitioning in 2013, her participation at the sporting showcase has been the subject of much discussion.
Her detractors have struggled to understand that trans-women are women and questioned whether she should be competing in her own gender specification.
Hubbard has kept a respectful silence since her place on the New Zealand team was confirmed, but today she released a statement that was read out on her behalf at an International Olympic Committee (IOC) briefing on inclusion.
"I see the Olympic Games as a global celebration of our hopes, ideals and values and I would like to thank the IOC for its commitment to making sport inclusive and accessible," Hubbard commented.
The IOC changed rules in 2015 that meant transgender athletes were able to compete in Olympic women's events without gender reassignment surgery.
The guidelines published required their testosterone levels be below 10 nanomoles per litre for at least 12 months before their first competition.
This is already being reviewed, however, and the IOC is now looking at determining a new framework that would allow international federations to take decisions for their sport individually.
IOC medical director Richard Budgett said earlier this week that it would be up to each federation to decide on the rules for inclusion and he reiterated this message today - saying that trans-women should be included in women's sport 'when we possibly can'.
He told the briefing: "After 100 years of promoting women's sport, it's up to each of the international federations to ensure that they try and protect women's sport.
"Science will help, experience will help, and time will help."
Some scientists have said the IOC guidelines do little to mitigate the biological advantages of those who have gone through puberty as males, such as bone and muscle density.
However, Secretary General Kereyn Smith reiterated the New Zealand Olympic Committee's support for Hubbard's inclusion and said it was important to remember that there was a 'person' at the heart of the debate.
IWF spokesman Mark Cooper said it was a complex issue which the governing body was learning more about all the time.
"As an international federation, it's important to deal with it carefully and compassionately," he said.
Hubbard is already a Commonwealth Champion from 2018 and also picked up a silver medal at the 2017 World Championships.
Featured Image Credit: PA
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