Certain Athletes Need to Be Deemed ‘Feminine’ Enough for Competition
By Katie J.M. Baker
Do female athletes with “unusually” high levels of male hormones have an unfair advantage on the field? The International Association of Athletics Federations thinks so: the organization recently decided that a woman cannot compete in track and field sports if she has too much testosterone in her apparently confusing body.
The issue has been a hot topic in South Africa ever since 21-year-old Caster Semenya won an 800-meter world championship and her competitors called her out for her “muscular biceps” and “husky voice.” “These kind of people should not run with us. For me, she’s not a woman. She’s a man,” said Elisa Cusma, who placed sixth in the race. Some might think Cusma sounds like a sore loser, but the IAAF has decreed that women like Semenya must have surgery or receive hormone therapy prescribed by an IAAF expert medical panel if they want to continue to compete, because they have an “unfair advantage,” said Dr. Stéphane Bermon, coordinator of the IAAF working group on Hyperandrogenism and Sex Reassignment in Female Athletics. “More muscle mass, easier recovery and a higher level of blood red cells.”
Semenya kept her medal and was eventually allowed to race, but she looks markedly more feminine now — according to the Toronto Star, she’s “almost unrecognizable from photographs taken during the height of the controversy.” Track and field managers at the university she trains at say they know she gets treatment, but that they can’t give any details. “We all accept . . . and she accepts . . . within sports you have to perform within certain guidelines, or else it will be chaos,” explained one manager. Semenya won’t talk about it either, but now that she has a “fit, feminine body” and wears tight clothes to show it off, people seem satisfied enough.
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Published June 12th 2012