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New Olympic Policy on Gender Testing

I.O.C Regulations Include Testing Testosterone Levels in Women



    New Olympic Policy on Gender Testing

    The International Olympic Committee adopted new regulations when a female athlete's gender is questioned. (Published Monday, Aug. 6, 2012)

    South African runner Caster Semenya dashed into the international spotlight three years ago when competitors questioned her gender after running two seconds faster than anyone else in the 800-meter world championships.

    Some of her competitors complained saying she appeared more like a he.

    "What happened in her case was that they started to do a sort of sex testing procedure on her, Stanford Ethicist Katrina Karkazis said. "It was a horrible bungling of her case."

    Semenya was forced to undergo gender tests, which kept her from competition for nearly a near.

    "Her medical records were leaked. People were speculating about what her anatomy was in the press, people were calling her things like hermaphrodite to the point where she actually withdrew from the public's fear and felt extremely scrutinized and humiliated by the process," Karkazis said.

    As a result of how her case was handled, the International Olympic Committee has come up with new regulations when there are suspicions of what it calls female hyperadrogenism. The new rules, outlined in a five page document will involve a test to see if a woman's natural testosterone levels fall within a normal range of a man. If it does, that athlete will not be allowed to compete with other females.

    That doesn't sit well with Karkazis.

    "Just because someone has higher testosterone levels doesn't mean they'll be a more successful athlete. The process is more complicated physiologically, and there are all kinds of sociological factors as well that contribute to athleticism."

    The IOC policy states that it is not intending to make a determination of sex, only hormone levels. However, the policy calls for three types of doctors to weigh in, a gynecologist, a genetic expert, and an endocrinologist.

    "That looks a lot like sex testing when you're evaluating all of these other traits and physical aspects of a person," Karkazis said.

    Alysia Montano, another Olympic 800-meter runner also sees problems with the testing. "I just think doing testing on testosterone can be quite difficult," Montano said. "Everyone's testosterone levels are different and women that are competing at a high, elite level, we tend to have higher levels of testosterone anyway."

    As for Semenya, she has said she just wants to put the 2009 World Championships behind her and concentrate on running her best in London.