Semenya’s hor­mones are still an is­sue

CityPress - - Sport - GIANNI MERLO sports@city­

Caster Semenya is des­tined to be remembered in the his­tory of sport as the woman who changed an era, which­ever way her story ends.

In 2009, she was pub­li­cally shamed be­cause her fem­i­nin­ity was not con­vinc­ing enough.

She had dom­i­nated the 800m at the World Championships in Ber­lin, but she was then made – by the In­ter­na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Athletics Fed­er­a­tions – to take hor­mones to lower her nat­u­ral testos­terone lev­els, which had made her a Fer­rari rac­ing against Mickey Mouse cars.

While tak­ing the med­i­ca­tion, she won the sil­ver medal at the Olympic Games in London, a medal that should now be gold be­cause of the ret­ro­spec­tive dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion of Rus­sia’s Mariya Savi­nova.

But, two years ago, the Court of Ar­bi­tra­tion for Sport (CAS) ruled that Semenya could stop tak­ing the hor­mones, which were ar­ti­fi­cially lim­it­ing her “en­gine”, be­cause science had not yet con­vinc­ingly demon­strated that higher lev­els of nat­u­ral testos­terone had ob­vi­ous ben­e­fits.

This claim was seen as blas­phemy by some, and is a matter that is now be­ing re­ex­am­ined by the CAS, with new re­sults ex­pected in the next few months.

Mean­while, at the Karolin­ska In­sti­tutet in Stock­holm, a group of fe­male vol­un­teers are be­ing sub­jected to ex­per­i­ments look­ing into the ben­e­fits of tak­ing syn­thetic testos­terone to im­prove per­for­mance.

This ex­per­i­ment is cru­cial, and it is one that may ul­ti­mately lead to the need for sports to iden­tify a third gen­der.

At this point, only time will tell whether it is more ap­pro­pri­ate to force fe­male ath­letes with ex­cess testos­terone to take med­i­ca­tion and re­turn to the so-called stan­dard, or cre­ate a new op­por­tu­nity that of­fi­cially ac­knowl­edges the ex­is­tence of a third re­al­ity; a third gen­der – one that is al­ready of­fi­cially recog­nised in some coun­tries.

. Merlo is AIPS pres­i­dent. This ar­ti­cle

first ap­peared on the AIPS web­site

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