Transgender weightlifter sparks Olympic debate
TOKYO, AUG 1: Transgender weightlifter Laurel Hubbard makes her Olympic debut in Tokyo on Monday, with the New Zealander's historic appearance igniting heated debate on one of sport's most divisive issues.
Hubbard was born male and competed as a man before transitioning to become a woman in her 30s, taking up the sport again after meeting the International Olympic Committee (IOC) guidelines for transgender athletes.
The IOC says she is the first openly transgender woman to compete at the Games, hailing it as a landmark moment for the Olympic movement.
"Laurel Hubbard is a woman, is competing under the rules of her federation and we have to pay tribute to her courage and tenacity in competing and qualifying for the Games," IOC medical chief Richard Budgett told reporters in Tokyo.
However, her presence in the women's +87kg category on the elite stage raises complex issues of bioethics, human rights, science, fairness and identity in sport. Supporters say her appearance is a victory for inclusion and trans rights.
Critics argue she has an unfair advantage over female rivals due to physical attributes locked into her body during her decades as a male.
Debate on the issue is intense and sometimes vitriolic, with barbs flying from both sides online, prompting to New Zealand Olympic Committee's to take steps to shield Hubbard from social media trolls.
But the IOC concedes there are legitimate questions about whether Hubbard has -- in the jargon-heavy language the sporting body uses to discuss the issue -- a "disproportionate competitive advantage". -AFP