Int’l Olympics Sets Sex Policy

Wow, this is huge news. Since Caster Semenya’s case first hit the headlines – which it never should have done for the sake of her privacy – there’s been a lot of speculation about women and competition.

That is, there wasn’t just a desire to define “woman” – since most experts know that’s impossible. (Trust me.) But the Olympics Committee instead are trying to define “woman athlete” or what might give a woman an “unfair” competitive edge against other women, and they’ve just decided how it’s going to be.

First, here’s what they came up with:

  1. Under the new policy, an investigation into the possibility that an athlete has hyperandrogenism can be requested by an athlete concerned about her own condition; a medical official for a country’s Olympic committee; a member of the I.O.C. Medical Commission or a member of the Olympic organizing committee’s medical commission; or the chairman of the I.O.C. Medical Commission.
  2. If the chairman decides to conduct an investigation, relevant documents like medical records will be gathered. If further investigation is needed, a panel of one gynecologist, one genetic expert and one endocrinologist will try to determine whether hyperandrogenism is present and if it offers a competitive advantage.
  3. If need be, the athlete and her international federation can appeal the decision within 21 days to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. She can also compete in men’s events if she qualifies.
  4. The guidelines do not address whether a woman found to have hyperandrogenism could undergo a treatment to make her eligible to compete as a woman.

So, point by point:

  1. Any female athlete can request another athlete’s sex and gender tests. No potential for bullying or gender baiting or witch hunting or policing of gender there. *sigh* What a nightmare: women judging other women’s “acceptable” level of womanness.
  2. There’s no distinction being made between people who take androgens and people whose bodies produce them.
  3. I have to say, I love the idea of women being able to compete in men’s events if they want to. That fucking rocks. & Just lit a nice green light for trans guys, too.
  4. Could undergo could mean: be encouraged to, be bullied into, willingly choose, feel required to. Problematic, but when it comes to many other decisions about gender, it can be hard to judge whether a person is choosing freely or making a coerced decision. This one will be no different.

I first thought that their decision to use T levels at the determining factor was a good idea. I still think it is. BUT:

The I.O.C. no longer deems its screening a sex-verification test, which in the past presented an awkward and embarrassing situation for the parties involved.

Because testing someone’s natural androgen levels has no potential to be awkward & embarrassing. Um, no.

The organization said the new regulations involve a test to see whether a woman’s natural testosterone levels fall within the normal range of a man, although the I.O.C. does not reveal what a man’s normal levels might be.

That is circular logic.

If a female athlete is found through a blood test to have a condition known as hyperandrogenism, which involves an excessive production of androgens, she will not be allowed to compete as a woman. To be barred, the female must have hyperandrogenism that “confers a competitive advantage,” the I.O.C. said, which means the androgens produce strength, power and speed because the body is receptive to them.

So it will be a subjective decision by people who believe in sex and gender difference.

Dr. Eric Vilain, a medical geneticist and the director of the Institute for Society and Genetics at U.C.L.A, was among the medical experts who advised the I.O.C. He called the guidelines imperfect, but said “you have to draw a line in the sand somewhere.”

No, actually, you don’t.

“The idea is to say, if a woman has higher levels of testosterone than other women, will it provide an advantage? Yes,” Vilain said. “Is it unfair? No, as long as this level stays under the lowest male level. It should not be considered more unfair than any genetic giftedness of any other athlete.”

That last bit? Absolutely.

He said that the upper range of a woman’s testosterone level and the lower range of a man’s do not overlap and between them is “a huge no man’s land” unless the woman is born with intersex conditions, having both male and female anatomical characteristics. And even then, the testosterone levels for those women will rarely enter the men’s normal range, he said.

My gender studies 100 could explain how entirely ridiculous that “huge no man’s land” idea is. And the “unless” in that sentence does it already.

The use of the word “normal” when it comes to biological gender makes me want to spit.

3 Replies to “Int’l Olympics Sets Sex Policy”

  1. Except that I didn’t read that ANY athlete could call into question a competitor’s status. The athlete can question her own eligibility, or a Medical officer of a country’s team, or a medical committe member of the IOC or the Olympic organizing committe. Now other athletes might question someone’s “gender” through their medical officers, but that might be a self-defeating tactic.

    The real issue is at what point does hyperandrogenism affect performance and isn’t it really the luck of the draw anyways? I mean if the person was born female, but suffers from hyperandrogenism and becomes a superior athlete, what difference does it make? So long as it isn’t artificially induced performance it shouldn’t matter.

    As for women competing along side men, there are several events where it is or was common.

  2. Ashley

    Yes, I’m aware it doesn’t say that, but you know that’s how it’s going to happen. All an athlete has to do is get the ear of one of the people mentioned above.

    My students usually come to the “as long as she didn’t take the T” conclusion, too.

    Which events? Tell me more. I’m not a big sports/olympics person otherwise.

  3. WOmen currently compete in “mixed” events in equestrian and sailing (or did as sailing is down toone event. Up until 1980, women competed in some shooting events alongside the men. In 1976 Margaret Murdock of the USA team won a silver medal in smallbore (22s) rifle at the Montreal games. Lanny Basham also of the USA took the gold but only by tiebreaking rules, they actually shot the same score. (Basham requested a shootoff but that was denied by the judges). During the playing of the National Anthem, Basham pulled her up to share the first place honors. After this the Russians petitioned to split the shooting events along gender lines. But for years women have been competing against or alongside men in most other shooting events and in many other sports. Most of these sports don’t get a lot of press but they’ve been part of Olympic and international competition for years. for an archive article.

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