I have been a sports fanatic for as long as I can remember. Every game or competition I compete in, I envision it as if I am competing to be the best. Like every other sports fan, I envy and look up to professional athletes who display dedication, perseverance and ultimately are successful. However, when I hear about athletes such as Cyclist, Lance Armstrong, and Canadian Olympic Sprinter, Ben Johnson, cheating their way to the top through the use of performance enhancing drugs, it leaves me feeling a little distraught. Why would athletes who are so naturally gifted try and better themselves through cheating? However, then I think about athletes such as Caster Samenya and Dutee Chand. These athletes are barred from competition due to their biological make-up, since the natural testosterone levels in their bodies are too high to be considered female. This seems to be contradictory, since professional committees are trying to encourage athletes to use their natural abilities in competition, rather than resorting to the use of performance-enhancing drugs and ultimately cheating, however they then in turn bar athletes who use their natural abilities to their advantage? There is something a little perplexing about that
Caster Semenya was the first athlete that brought gender testing to my attention. She was subjected to gender testing by the International Associations of Athletics Federations, after she won the 2009 World Championships in Berlin because of her muscular masculine appearance and her success. She was accused of not being a female. Caster was barred from competition for nearly 11 months while they debated whether or not she should be able to compete in the women’s category.
Gender testing was then abolished in 2009 and different rules and regulations were implemented.
Dutee Chand, a professional sprinter and National Champion from India, was supposed to compete in the Commonwealth games last year, when she was pulled away by doctors. They were appointed by the Athletics federation of India, to poke and pry at her body to determine what was making her so successful. Dutee was deemed unfit to compete in the women’s category due to the standards outlined by the International Olympic Comittee (IOC). The IOC had new rules and regulations that states if a female athlete is found to have hyperandrogenism “that confers a competitive advantage (because it is functional and the androgen level is in the male range),” she would not be eligible to compete as a woman (Camporesi, 5).” Women who exceed the testosterone limit, under the IOC regulations, have two choices: to either alter their body by undergoing hormonal or surgical procedures or to give up competitive running. Both of which are very invasive and demeaning treatments.
“I AM NOT CHANGING FOR ANYONE”
If Dutee were to follow through with the hormonal or surgical procedure she would be altering the state of her natural body, and altering the state of an athlete’s body is the reason why performance enhancing drugs are prohibited from all forms of professional sports. “Impurities underpinning regulations become evident in the spaces where punishments diverge from their staged goals of preserving body purity, the places where bodies are sanctioned for transgressions that do not fit in WADA’s [World Anti-Doping Agency] stated missions (Patel, 92).” Every human has a unique set of characteristics which they receive from their parents, and it is beyond their control what their biological make-up consists of. Cheating and doping are highly frowned upon because they give athletes an unfair advantage, but they are PREVENTABLE. Most of these women have no idea they have hyperandrogenism going into a competition and only find out after they are accused of doping or not being a female. The rules implemented by the IOC are there to try and make the competition equitable, however exploiting these athletes and accusing them of being male is completely unfair and belittling.
Testosterone is not the sole factor for determining and athlete’s success, male or female. If a women has abnormally high testosterone levels but does have the proper coaching, facilities, diet, and does not put the desired hours of training to achieve success, regardless of her testosterone levels she will have no advantage on any professional athlete. However, “there is no evidence showing that successful athletes have higher testosterone levels than less successful athletes(Karkazis, 7).” These women work and work hard and it may be, but not proven to be, that genetics or biological factors are in their favour but that is no different than having a 7’1 basketball player in the NBA.
Many Olympians or professional athletes have abnormal body types that are advantageous in their chosen sport. For example, lets take a look at USA Olympic swimmer, Micheal Phelps. “Obviously you don’t get to be the most decorated Olympian of all time without a boat load of dedication and steely focus, but being a biomechanical freak of nature can’t hurt. (Siebart, 1). ” Michael Phelps has an extraordinary wingspan which stretches out 6 feet 8 inches, exceeding his vertical height. He has size 14 feet with extremely flexible ankles that resemble flippers allowing him to push through the water. Phelps’ torso is much longer than his legs, allowing him to glide through the water with little to drag behind him. Finally, he produces less lactic acid than a regular person does and thus has a slower onset of fatigue. Michael Phelps’ was blessed with natural endowments but like any other professional athlete he had to endure a long road to success.
Micheal Phelps – Designed to Swim
How is Caster and Dutee’s biological advantage categorized any differently from Michael Phelp’s? It is unethical for committees, like the IOC, to be determining who is too manly to be competing as a woman and base it off of the sole factor of testosterone levels. Testing hyperandrogenism is completely invasive of the athletes privacy and could potentially be detrimental. I believe that with increasing diversity of sexes in society, it may potentially be easiest to abolish categorizing athletes as male or female. However, no athlete should be barred from competition due to biological factors because the human race is way to diverse to make it justifiable.
For more information:
Camporessi, Silvia. “Somatosphere.” Somatosphere Caster Semenya and Athletic Excellence a Critique of Olympic Sextesting Comments. 26 July 2012. Web. 24 Nov. 2015.
Karkazis, Katrina, Rebecca Jordan-Young, Georgiann Davis, and Silvia Camporesi. “Out of Bounds? A Critique of the New Policies on Hyperandrogenism in Elite Female Athletes.” The American Journal of Bioethics: 3-16. Print.
Patel, Seema. Inclusion and Exclusion in Competitive Sport: Socio-legal and Regulatory Perspectives. London, 2014. 92. Print.
Siebart, Valerie. “Michael Phelps: The Man Who Was Built to Be a Swimmer.” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 1 Apr. 2014. Web. 24 Nov. 2015.