JOHANNESBURG - This column is about sex. And gender.
It’s also about the IAAF and a scientific paper, funded by the federation and the World Anti-doping Association, released earlier this week in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
In that research, it was found that women who produce excessive amounts of testosterone have up to a 4.5 percent advantage over their ‘normal’ competition in sport.
Well, golly-gosh. Who’d a thunk? I guess this is why individuals, seeking that extra edge, have been injecting themselves with the stuff for decades. The theory goes, or so we have been taught, the more testosterone, the more muscle mass, strength and stamina. Did you know it also makes people more aggressive?
It would all be so silly, if it wasn’t so sinister.
For, you see, with this research in their pocket, the IAAF intends to appeal a verdict by the Court for Arbitration in Sport regarding women athletes that have intersex conditions, like our very own Caster Semenya, India’s Dutee Chand, Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi and Kenya’s Margaret Wambui.
All these athletes identify themselves, in terms of sex and more broadly in their gender, as women.
And yet, the IAAF will go to Lausanne, Switzerland, and argue they have the aforementioned elevated levels and should not, therefore, be allowed to participate in their events, unless they undergo hormone treatment.
Jip, that’s right, the IAAF wants to define what a woman is and assign their role accordingly. And if you don’t fit into that narrow definition, then, well, sorry for you here, take these pills, get this injection, it will make you how you should be, how we want you to be let’s delete your autonomy to decide your own identity.
It is an incredibly privileged stance - to contest the ability for a person to transcend or choose their gender, especially for an intersexed individual, who can identify as either or neither.
It also ignores nature and nurture debates. Thus, the die on the likes of Semenya, has long been cast. She is the product of history and her environment.
Truth be told, we are the collective input of generations - what our ancestors ate, drank, where they lived, the temperature, the everyday elements, have evolved us into what we are in a continuous and dynamic cycle which will continue into our descendants.
It has created various degrees of genetic drift and biological variations within our own species, some fortuitous, others destructive - all of them natural. That is why we can generalise and say; a man from Georgia would be a better powerlifter than say a man from Ethiopia and why, in turn, the man from Ethiopia is a better long-distance runner. It is also why we can factually state that women are more likely to develop osteoporosis than their male counterparts.
Moreover, for the IAAF to insist that they wish equality and fairness, is laughable.
Where you are born is just as important, if not moreso, then how you are born. A would-be athlete in a developed country has all the advantages of science, infrastructure and know-how, which is not equally distributed across the globe. How is that fair for someone born with a natural talent but into poverty in a developing nation?
All of this just smacks of a prejudiced and heteronormative view in an effort to retain a status quo.
Would the same apply to male athletes who present as female? Without having to commission scientific research into the matter, I can tell you, with a high degree of certainty, that some men are born with testosterone above the average. And yet, where is the concern for equality here? Surely, having a bit more of the juice is advantageous for a male athlete.
The IAAF should be ashamed of themselves and their continued stance that will box in women athletes. It’s not fair and it’s not equal.