"You cannot change rules during ongoing competitions," said IOC President Thomas Bach, upholding New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard's eligibility as the first openly transgender Olympian

By Glenn Garner
July 18, 2021 02:33 PM
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Laurel Hubbard
Credit: Scott Barbour/Getty

Laurel Hubbard's qualification for the Tokyo Olympics has been the subject of debate, as she's the first openly transgender athlete to compete.

The Team New Zealand weightlifter, 43, has been cleared to compete in the Summer Games, as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) upheld their rules on Saturday, while committing to reevaluate the policy in the future, according to Reuters.

"The rules for qualification have been established by the International Weightlifting Federation before the qualifications started," said IOC President Thomas Bach during a news conference. "These rules apply, and you cannot change rules during ongoing competitions."

Although Hubbard made history by qualifying for the women's 87-kilogram event in May, her victory has been shrouded in scrutiny over the hot-button issue of her gender identity. While critics have claimed that transgender athletes benefit from unfair physical advantages, doctors and scientists say that is an oversimplification not supported by the facts.

"At the same time, the IOC is in an inquiry phase with all different stakeholders... to review these rules and finally to come up with some guidelines which cannot be rules because this is a question where there is no one-size-fits-all solution," Bach said. "It differs from sport to sport."

The IOC issued new guidelines in 2015, which stipulate that a transgender athlete can compete as a woman if their testosterone levels remain below 10 nanomoles per liter for a minimum of 12 months ahead of their first competition, according to Reuters.

"The rules are in place and the rules have to be applied and you cannot change the rules during an ongoing qualification system," Bach explained. "This is what all the athletes of the world are relying on: that the rules are being applied."

Listen below to our daily podcast PEOPLE Every Day for more on Laurel Hubbard.

Hubbard, who competed in men's weightlifting competitions before transitioning in 2013, has been the subject of controversy before. In 2018, Australia's weightlifting association unsuccessfully attempted to have her blocked from competing in the Commonwealth Games.

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Most recently, Belgian weightlifter Anna Vanbellinghen spoke out against Hubbard's Olympic eligibility, which she said was "unfair" and "like a bad joke."

"It's not my role or my goal to change people's minds," Hubbard said to Radio New Zealand in 2017. "I would hope they would support me, but it's not for me to make them do so."

To learn more about all the Olympic hopefuls, visit TeamUSA.org. The Tokyo Olympics begin July 23rd on NBC.