Right Or Ridiculous? Athlete With Rare Genetic Disorder Told She Must Compete With Men In 800m Race

Written by Wes Walker on February 15, 2019

This will throw a real wrench in the question of gender and sport — and not in the way we’re used to hearing about. This time there IS an obvious biological complication to the question.

This time we’re not talking about the Bruce/Caitlyn scenario.

Meet Caster Semenya. Semenya is a South African champion athlete who has lived as a female since Day One. Her apparent physical anatomy is also that of a woman. But there’s a catch.

She has a genetic abnormality that causes her body to produce levels of testosterone one would normally associate with being a guy. That creates exactly the kind of physical advantage that born-female athletes object to when competing against born-male athletes who have made the switch.

That has created a difficult situation in the sport she competes in. Should she compete among the ladies or among the bros?

In a statement, the IAAF said: ‘The IAAF is not classifying any DSD (Differences of Sexual Development) athlete as male.

‘To the contrary, we accept their legal sex without question and permit them to compete in the female category.
‘However if a DSD athlete has testes and male levels of testosterone, they get the same increases in bone and muscle size and strength and increases in haemoglobin that a male gets when they go through puberty, which is what gives men such a performance advantage over women.
‘Therefore, to preserve fair competition in the female category, it is necessary to require DSD athletes to reduce their testosterone down to female levels before they compete at international level.’
The IAAF has delayed the introduction of a testosterone limit for female athletes until after Semenya’s appeal against the rule is heard.
Source: Daily Mail

In their defense, they tried to make a decision based on science, biology and natural advantage.

The IAAF took time to investigate the matter thoroughly and determined that testosterone level does indeed give an advantage to intersex athletes competing against women.

It sucks for Semenya, but it’s a matter of fairness for the female athletes that don’t go through puberty with male hormones which gives a physical advantage.

‘If the CAS rules that legal recognition as female is sufficient to qualify for the female category of competition, and the IAAF is not permitted to require athletes of female legal sex who have testes and consequently male levels of testosterone to reduce those levels down to the female range, then DSD and transgender athletes will dominate the podiums and prize money in sport,’ Jonathan Taylor, the IAAF’s London-based lawyer told The Times.
‘Women with normal female testosterone levels will not have any chance to win.’
Source: Daily Mail

But Semenya is fighting back. Her lawyers have stated that Caster Semenya is ‘unquestionably a woman’ and are arguing that her ‘natural advantage’ should be ‘celebrated’ like other biological advantages are.

“Her case is about the rights of women such as Ms Semenya who are born as women, reared and socialised as women, who have been legally recognised as women for their entire lives, who have always competed as women, and who should be permitted to compete in the female category without discrimination,” her lawyers said in a statement…

…“Women with differences in sexual development have genetic differences that are no different than other genetic variations that are celebrated in sport. She asks that she be respected and treated as any other athlete. Her genetic gift should be celebrated, not discriminated against.”

Source: The Guardian

Is that an absurd argument? It could be argued either way.

Articles have been written about, for example, the quirks of Olympic legend Michael Phelp’s physiology. He has long arms, large feet, and a few other factors that give him a natural advantage over other high-level athletes. Is it ‘unfair’, or is it just making use of natural advantages?

What do YOU Think?

She has lived her entire life as a woman and has the physiology to match.

But she also shares the natural physical advantages over her sex that men acquire during puberty.

Which way would YOU Rule in this?

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