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Laurel Hubbard's Olympic selection follows the rules, says PM

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has defended the New Zealand Olympic Committee over the controversial selection of weightlifter Laurel Hubbard for Tokyo, saying the governing body simply followed the rules for eligibility.

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The PM was asked about the controversial selection of Laurel Hubbard in the NZ Olympic team. Source: 1 NEWS

Hubbard made headlines globally yesterday when she became the first transgender athlete to be selected for the Olympics.

The 43-year-old is set to represent New Zealand in the women's +87kg event in Tokyo, but questions have been raised over the fairness of her entry due to her past as a male with higher testosterone levels.

In Wellington today, Ardern said the NZOC, Weightlifting NZ and Hubbard had done nothing wrong.

"Parties here have simply followed the rules," Ardern said.

"That's the case for Laurel but also the team in New Zealand - they have followed the rules."

Ardern challenged would it be fair if the opposite outcome had taken place.

"The alternative is to have someone who followed the rules but then is denied the ability to participate," she said.

"So, ultimately, I leave it to those bodies and that's the decision they've made and that's within the standard that's been set globally."

Hubbard's inclusion is possible thanks to guidelines issued by the International Olympic Committee in 2015, which allow athletes to transition from male to female to compete in women's categories provided their testosterone levels are below a certain threshold - 10 nanomoles per litre - for at least 12 months before their first competition.

The guideline was accepted by the International Weightlifting Federation soon after and by 2017, Hubbard was representing New Zealand on the world stage.

National's Judith Collins said the issue of transgender people competing in elite sport needed to be discussed in a "reasoned and sensible way".

"There is the issue of biological women being unfairly unable to compete because they are competing against transgender women who were born biologically male." 

Sexual orientation and people's gender identity was a personal issue, but it became a factor when it impacted upon other people, she said.

She acknowledged the huge decisions and sacrifices Hubbard had made in her life. "I'd hate to see any bullying or horrible comments about Laurel." 

"Disaster for women's sport"

Hubbard's milestone in Tokyo is still drawing heavy criticism in some circles though with British media personality Piers Morgan slamming the selection in a column for the Daily Mail.

"The uncomfortable, irrefutable truth is that this decision is a disaster for women's sport," Morgan wrote.

"By supposedly promoting 'equality' with the inclusion of a transgender weightlifter, the Olympics have created a shocking new inequality – and everyone with half a brain knows it."

Morgan referenced recent clashes with other nations in his piece such as Samoa's anger after the 2019 Pacific Games in the small Pacific nation when Hubbard beat hometown Commonwealth Games champion Feagaiga Stowers for gold.

"Women born to female biological bodies are at a massive disadvantage to transgender women like Laurel Hubbard born to male biological bodies," Morgan wrote.

"Why should Samoa's Feagaiga Stowers, who Hubbard beat to gold at the 2019 Pacific Games, now again have to face an opponent with such an unfair advantage?"

Morgan emphasised his issue wasn't with Hubbard but rather how she was allowed to be selected.

"I don't blame Hubbard for any of this, by the way," Morgan went on.

"It's not her fault that she's been allowed to compete in the world's greatest sporting event with such an obvious physiological advantage over her rivals.

"As I've said many times, I support transgender rights to equality and fairness – but not when those rights damage women's rights to equality and fairness This is unfair and unequal.

"And it's not 'transphobic' to say this, it's just common sense. If Laurel Hubbard wins gold in Japan, it will be the end of the Olympic dream as we know it."