Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Asano Ikko/AFP), Ezra Shaw, and Alex Pantling via Getty Images

TOKYO — After 125 years of having no openly transgender competitors at the Olympics, there are several transgender and nonbinary athletes at this year's Games.

Between the lines: While still small in number, the presence of trans athletes has been a major point of controversy at these Games, coming up repeatedly at IOC press conferences and in newspaper headlines around the world.

  • Even the cover of the magazine of AIPS, a trade group for global sports journalists, is devoted to “the transgender issue."

Driving the news: There are at least four trans and nonbinary athletes in Tokyo: Canadian soccer player Quinn; U.S. skateboarder Alana Smith; BMX Freestyle rider Chelsea Wolfe, an alternate for Team USA; and Laurel Hubbard, a New Zealand weightlifter set to compete on Monday.

  • Quinn competed previously for Team Canada, winning a bronze medal in Rio in 2016, but only shared their transgender and nonbinary identities in 2020.
  • Smith, meanwhile, had their gender misidentified on television even though they literally wrote “they/them” on their skateboard, a slight that prompted an apology from NBC.
  • But the controversy has really centered on Hubbard, who competed in male weightlifting for years before transitioning at age 35.
  • Hubbard qualified for the Tokyo Games after completing the sport's rules for trans athletes, including suppressing her testosterone levels below a proscribed level (10 nmol/L) for at least a year.

The big picture: Most of the objections to trans participation in sports centers on transgender women and the belief by some that trans women retain an unfair advantage even after taking hormones to lower their testosterone.

  • The science on that is inconclusive, not to mention the fact that non-transgender women have a wide range of naturally occurring testosterone levels.

Flashback: The IOC set guidelines on transgender athletes back in 2003, and updated them in 2015 to remove a requirement that athletes undergo gender confirmation surgery, which required transgender female athletes to have gender confirmation surgery to change the outward appearance of their genitals.

  • But it has left specific rule making up to individual sport governing bodies.

What they're saying: Olympic officials have praised Hubbard as an individual and defended her right to participate, but have also said the organization is continuing a review of its policy on transgender athletes.

  • “There is lots of disagreement across the whole world of sport," IOC medical and scientific director Richard Budgett said at a press conference this week.
  • However, he said Friday that he also believes the concerns about trans women dominating women's sports are likely overblown, noting that the IOC has had policies allowing transgender athletes for nearly 20 years and Hubbard is the first transgender woman to reach the Olympic field of play.

Budgett said it makes sense to have different rules for different sports and even different disciplines within a sport.

  • A new framework from the IOC to help guide international federations in crafting their policies has been in the works since 2019, and is expected in the coming months.
  • “It would have been inappropriate to come out with a new framework or guidelines just before the Olympics," Budgett said.

Between the lines: While some are calling for the IOC to tighten the rules in the wake of Hubbard’s presence, others say that such an effort would be less about ensuring trans women don’t have an advantage and more about excluding them entirely.

  • Budgett noted that while there is no question that men have advantages over women, there is not enough research to really understand what advantages transgender women may retain over non-transgender women.

What they're saying: Wolfe, a transgender woman and an alternate in BMX freestyle at the Tokyo Games, told Axios that much of the controversy stems from a lack of trust that trans people are who they say they are.

  • "They don’t trust our lived experiences that we describe," Wolfe said. "They don’t trust us to know for sure that what we are doing puts us on a relatively equal footing with cis [non-transgender] athletes when we compete.
  • Hubbard, who has been the target of attacks on social media and criticism from a number of fellow athletes, issued a statement Friday commending the IOC for "its commitment to making sport inclusive and accessible.”
  • “The Olympics are a global celebration of our hopes, our ideals and our values," she said in the statement, conveyed via New Zealand Olympic officials.

What's next: Hubbard is set to compete in weightlifting on Aug. 2. As an alternate, Wolfe is now set to return home as training for her sport has concluded and her teammates are ready to begin competition today.

  • Quinn played for Canada in the quarterfinals on Friday, while Smith has already completed their competition in Tokyo.

Go deeper:

Trans athletes see the Tokyo Games as a watershed moment

Go deeper

Aug 30, 2021 - Sports

The major highlights from Week 1 of the Paralympics

Nick Mayhugh. Photo: Moto Yoshimura/Getty Images

The 2020 Paralympics are halfway complete, with 4,403 athletes — including a record 1,853 women — putting on a show last week in Tokyo. Here are some of the Games' top stories:

  • 🥇 Medal count: China has by far the most medals (119), followed by Great Britain (65), the Russian Paralympic Committee (59), Ukraine (50) and the U.S. (48). Full medal table.
Ben Geman, author of Generate
13 mins ago - Energy & Environment

China vows end to building coal-fired power plants abroad

Chinese President Xi Jinping. Photo: Mary Altaffer - Pool/Getty Images

Chinese President Xi Jinping told the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday that his country "will not build new coal-fired power projects abroad" and plans to boost support for clean energy in developing nations.

Why it matters: The pledge, if maintained, would mark a breakthrough in efforts to transition global power away from the most carbon-emitting fuel.

House Democrats strip Iron Dome money from government funding bill

Photographer: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via Getty Images

House Democrats on Tuesday stripped $1 billion for Israel's Iron Dome defense system from its short-term government funding bill after backlash from progressives, people familiar with the decision tell Axios.

Why it matters: There has never a situation where military aid for Israel was held up because of objections from members of Congress. While the funding will get a vote in its current defense bill, the clash underscores the deep divisions within the Democratic party over Israel.