The IOC (International Olympic Committee) has unveiled a new policy regarding gender testing to establish whether female athletes are eligible to compete in women’s Olympic events. Unsurprisingly, this new policy has drawn some harsh criticism from medical experts, sports insiders, professional coaches and trainers and female athletes the world over.
Widely regarded as a “farce” the IOC has implemented new regulations about female only athletes that have the unique condition hyperandrogenism. This condition affects the way in which a body produces hormones and androgens, such as testosterone, and in some cases it can lead bodies to develop excessive amounts. As far as the IOC is concerned, female athletes with the condition who have naturally-developed testosterone levels that are equal to a man’s average level will be barred from competition against both female and male athletes.
There’s still no word from the IOC about what will happen to male athletes with abnormal levels of testosterone, however!
Kevin B Warmsley, a sport history professor at the University of Western Ontario and the former director of the International Centre for Olympic Studies, is one of the biggest critics of this potentially invasive and barbaric policy. Believing that at its roots the testing proposed by the IOC is no more than “a sex test that’s all about judgements”, Warmsley’s opinion of the policy is blunt – “They don’t need this test, and I think they should get rid of it.”
The most chilling aspect about the policy, which is at best a mis-guided approach to creating fair and equal playing fields in professional sport, is that instead of placing emphasis on banning substance abuse and the use of PETs in all professional sports, it is instead punishing female athletes who don’t neatly fit into pre-defined “gender” categories. Having naturally high levels of any hormone or chemical is something that can occur in any athlete, male or female, but an in depth look at the athletes who have been monitored reveals that it’s not their exceptional performance in comparison to their fellow female competitors that have targeted them for this “suspicion-based monitoring” but their physical appearance.
We’ve already witnessed one gender-testing catastrophe in the treatment of world champion runner Caster Semenya, who was banned from competition for a year until the IAAF declared her female-enough, and if this new policy becomes widespread it’s likely to create the same problems for our favourite female tennis players. Natural skill does go some way in helping out elite female athletes, but it’s the hours that they spent training – refining and polishing techniques and game play – that have more of an impact on how they perform, regardless of whether they are “too masculine” in their appearance or not.