IOC to set up cen­tres for gen­der dis­putes

Spe­cial­ists to han­dle sex ver­i­fi­ca­tion cases

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS -

LON­DON: The In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee is rec­om­mend­ing the es­tab­lish­ment of spe­cial med­i­cal cen­tres around the world to deal with cases of ath­letes with am­bigu­ous sex­ual char­ac­ter­is­tics.

The IOC also wants rules put into place by sports bodies to de­ter­mine the el­i­gi­bil­ity on a “case by case” ba­sis of ath­letes whose gen­der is called into ques­tion.

The IOC or­gan­ised a two­day con­fer­ence with med­i­cal spe­cial­ists in Mi­ami to con­sider guide­lines for han­dling sex ver­i­fi­ca­tion cases, an is­sue that gained global at­ten­tion last year when South African run­ner Caster Se­menya was or­dered to un­dergo gen­der tests.

The case of Se­menya, who won the women’s 800m at the world cham­pi­onships in Berlin last year, was not dealt with di­rectly in the closed meet­ings. But it helped fo­cus the need for clar­ity on the is­sue of whether an ath­lete com­petes as a man or a woman.

“We did not dis­cuss any par­tic­u­lar case,” IOC med­i­cal com­mis­sion chair­man Arne Ljungqvist said.

“We ex­plored the sci­ence of all th­ese mat­ters. We es­tab­lished sev­eral im­por­tant points based on up-to-date sci­ence and global ex­per­tise. Now we have the sci­en­tific ba­sis for go­ing fur­ther.”

Among the key con­clu­sions was a pro­posal to set up health cen­tres where ex­perts would di­ag­nose and treat ath­letes with what are known as “dis­or­ders of sex de­vel­op­ment”.

“We can­not ex­pect sports in ev­ery coun­try around the world to have the nec­es­sary ex­per­tise,” Ljungqvist said. “That’s not pos­si­ble, so we rec­om­mend strate­gi­cally lo­cated cen­tres where cases could be re­ferred if nec­es­sary. It’s for the ex­perts to de­cide what to do with each in­di­vid­ual case.”

The Mi­ami sym­po­sium – at­tended by about 15 sci­en­tists, med­i­cal ex­perts and sports fed­er­a­tion doc­tors – took place amid con­tin­u­ing in­ter­na­tional scru­tiny on Se­menya, who was 18 when she won the 800 gold at the cham­pi­onships in Berlin. Her dra­matic im­prove­ment in times and mus­cu­lar build led the In­ter­na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Ath­let­ics Fed­er­a­tions to or­der gen­der tests.

The IAAF is still re­view­ing the test re­sults to de­ter­mine Se­menya’s fu­ture. The IAAF has re­fused to con­firm or deny Aus­tralian me­dia re­ports that the tests in­di­cate Se­menya has both male and fe­male sex or­gans.

Of­fi­cials from the IAAF and world foot­ball gov­ern­ing body FIFA at­tended the Mi­ami con­fer­ence to ex­plain their poli­cies and ex­pe­ri­ences on gen­der is­sues, Ljungqvist said.

While the Se­menya con­tro­versy has con­tin­ued for months, Ljungqvist said the ex­perts in Mi­ami em­pha­sised that all cases should be dealt with quickly.

“It is very im­por­tant to as rapidly as pos­si­ble es­tab­lish a di­ag­no­sis once you have come across a sus­pi­cious case,” he said.

“It’s not some­thing that should be al­lowed to drag on. If the sport comes across such a case you have to deal with it in an ex­pe­di­tious man­ner.”

Sports fed­er­a­tions should have rules to de­ter­mine an ath­lete’s el­i­gi­bil­ity to com­pete dur­ing the gen­der di­ag­no­sis and treat­ment pe­ri­ods, Ljungqvist said.

“There can­not be a gen­eral rule,” he said. “The rule needs to al­low for a case-by-case eval­u­a­tion. Each case is unique. They are not many. They are all in­di­vid­ual.”

The del­e­gates also cited the po­ten­tial ben­e­fit of “pre-par­tic­i­pa­tion health ex­am­i­na­tions” for as­pir­ing ath­letes. Ljungqvist said some coun­tries, in­clud­ing Italy, re­quire ath­letes to take med­i­cal checks be­fore they are ruled el­i­gi­ble for com­pe­ti­tion.

“We em­pha­sised that th­ese ex­ams could be a very im­por­tant and use­ful tool for iden­ti­fy­ing ath­letes with th­ese dis­or­ders,” he said.

The IOC will now con­sult with lawyers and its own ath­letes’ com­mis­sion to help es­tab­lish spe­cific guide­lines.

“We have achieved the first step suc­cess­fully,” Ljungqvist said. “There needs to be some le­gal in­put. This may re­quire fur­ther dis­cus­sions. Cer­tainly the IOC will take some ini­tia­tives to pur­sue this fur­ther.”

The IOC used to carry out manda­tory gen­der ex­ams at the Olympics, but they were dropped in 1999 be­cause the screen­ing process – chro­mo­some test­ing – was deemed un­sci­en­tific and un­eth­i­cal.

The IOC now has a spe­cial med­i­cal panel on site at the games that can in­ter­vene if nec­es­sary. – Sapa-AP

PIC­TURE: CHRIS COLLINGRIDGE

CON­TRO­VER­SIAL: Caster Se­menya who won the 800m gold in Au­gust.

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