The former head of the Intersex Society of North America, she has consulted for the International Olympic Committee and the International Association of Athletics Federations, as well as the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport.“And in my free time,” she noted, “I dope with testosterone so that I can legitimately buy men’s shaving products, which are cheaper than women’s.” (All links below were added by me.) My sense is that you agree with what other people have written: that the IOC has done a rather poor job handling this issue.As Daniel Engber explains in an excellent Slate rundown: Among athletes with intersex conditions, none is as prominent nor as magnificently gifted as Semenya.
One focus of this testing has been on athletes’ levels of the “male” hormone, testosterone.
For a period, female athletes with raised levels of T (well, technically testosterone, but we’ll get to that distinction in a moment) were forced to artificially lower their levels in order to compete in women’s events.
Plus, some female athletes who do appear to have an advantage — “perhaps resulting from a sex-hormone-producing adrenal tumor or a genetic condition such as congenital adrenal hyperplasia,” as Engbar put it — don’t have a Y chromosome.
As a result of this method’s shortcomings, Engbar writes, things eventually graduated to “a more flexible standard for women who had been flagged for testing, relying on a host of factors including each athlete’s internal and external anatomy, psychology, hormone levels, and genetics.” These were the invasive tests Semenya endured, the results of which were leaked without her consent.
Where there is at least some debate is about the question of whether athletes with conditions like Semenya and Chand’s are enjoying an unfair advantage, given that the point of dividing sports by sex is to account for certain biological differences between women and men — differences that are sometimes fuzzy at the level of the average human, but can be heightened at the level of elite athletics. Because not a single track-and-field fan that I’m aware of disagrees with me.” But if Gladwell is right, where should the guidelines lie, given the incredible complexity of sex differences?
If a woman has enough of the characteristics which would account for a male athlete being faster and stronger than a female one, should she still be able to compete with women who don’t have those characteristics? What makes Semenya different from any other top athlete whose biological wiring gives them an advantage — which is to say, from any other top athlete?
The author of the article, Eben Harrell, continued: “Those who have complete AIS, despite being genetically male, display fewer signs of the presence of testosterone than the average female, who produces and absorbs a small amount of the hormone.
There is such a condition as partial AIS, however, in which a person has some sensitivity to testosterone and so develops masculine features — such as larger muscles — alongside feminine features.” So even a set of XY chromosomes is not enough to state, with certainty, that a female athlete enjoys a marked advantage over the competition.
“Semenya appears to be a member of [this group],” writes Engbar.