Hyperandrogenism at issue in new Olympic procedures
By Summit Voice
LINZ, AUSTRIA —Just a few days before the opening ceremony of the 2012 Summit Olympic Games in London, activists are calling on the International Olympic Committee to rescind a new gender-verification policy aimed at leveling the playing field for female competitors.
While some athletes support the new tests, LGBT advocates claim the tests threaten to undermine the integrity of the Games and the dignity of thousands of female athletes by subjecting them to invasive sex verification procedures.
“Biology and humans are much more diverse than we would ever guess. What makes someone a man or a woman can’t be identified in a single test or using a single measurement,” said Andre Banks, director of AllOut.org, an LGBT advocacy group that has launched an international campaign to end the tests.
“The new rule is degrading and humiliating to athletes who’ve worked for years and overcome tremendous obstacles in order to give everything for their sport and country. We don’t ban people from becoming basketball players for being taller than average, or weightlifters for being stronger than average. Athletes are punished for cheating, and the International Olympic Committee already has a battery of tests to maintain the integrity of the Olympic Games,” Banks said.
The IOC says the tests are not aimed at determining the gender of athletes. The goal of the regulations is to “identify circumstances in which a particular athlete will not be eligible (by reason of hormonal characteristics) to participate in 2012 OG Competitions in the female category … In the event that the athlete has been declared ineligible to compete in the female category, the athlete may be eligible to compete as a male athlete, if the athlete qualifies for the male event of the sport,” the IOC wrote in its official explanation of the new rules.
Essentially, the new rule says women with levels of testosterone naturally equal to that of a man will be barred from competing with other women. The IOC stopped short of specifying what a normal level of hormones would be, leaving the interpretation up to a panel of three experts. The panel would be empowered to disqualify female athletes from the London 2012 Games.
The new rules were developed after South African runner Caster Semenyafaced 11 months of gender testing after she was deemed too fast and too muscular to be a real woman.
“The Committee already has strict standards and a battery of tests to identify cheaters – this rule is something different,” Banks said, claiming it forces IOC doctors to act as gender police. “It’s an invasion of privacy, it violates medical ethics, and it breeds an environment where if women are too good, they are suspected of cheating. That is the opposite of the Olympic Spirit,” explained Banks.
The expert panel includes gynecologist, an genetics expert and an endocrinologists. Additional specialists could be appointed to the panel.
Here’s how the IOC explained the new rules:
In general, the performances of male and female athletes may differ mainly due to the fact that men produce significantly more androgenic hormones than women and, therefore, are under stronger influence of such hormones. Androgenic hormones have performance- enhancing effects, particularly on strength, power and speed, which may provide a competitive advantage in sports. This is one of the reasons why the exogenous administration of such hormones and/or the promotion of the endogenous production of these hormones are banned under the World Anti-Doping Code, to which the IOC is a signatory.