Cape Town — The fierce debate around gender verification has raised its head at the Women's African Cup of Nations (WAFCON) in Morocco following the news that Zambia's superstar Barbara Banda cannot participate in the continental showpiece in Morocco.
As news of Banda's absence started to filter through it became known that more players have been side-lined for "medical reasons" relating to high testosterone levels. The tournament organisers CAF have yet to make a statement on the matter, but the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) has shed some light on the matter.
FAZ Communications Manager Sydney Mungala said participating teams had to adhere to tournament regulations before the start of the tournament. He said that Banda was among the players who failed to meet the regulations.
Mungala added that the FAZ could not delve into specifics nor comment on Banda’s medical case because it would be unethical.
Independent Media has managed to obtain a copy of the form which has to be completed by team doctors of countries competing at WAFCON. The form is headed Association's Declaration on Agreement on Gender Verification' and the opening paragraph reads: 'CAF competitions are defined for specific groups determined, inter-alia, by age and sex to ensure a level field for all players'.
When completing the form, the team doctors are responsible for determining certain medical criteria for players. If they do not conform to regulations, they have a responsibility to inform the country's FA which are duty-bound to withdraw the players.
In the absence of an official explanation for withdrawing Banda from the Zambian national team, several media reports say that the vague “medical reasons” relate to high testosterone levels following blood tests. It is said that the unusually high testosterone levels in women make them faster and stronger.
Banda, the captain of Zambia's Copper Queens, shot into prominence in Tokyo, Japan, last year when became the first woman in Olympics Games history to score back-to-back hat-tricks against the Netherlands and China in Group F matches. She is now level for the most goals scored by an African player at the Olympics for both men and women. It was also the first time one player has scored two hat-tricks at the same Olympics Games tournament.
Banda has reportedly taken medication to help reduce her levels of testosterone, but she has still not met the regulations, BBC Sport Africa understands. However, other media reports say Banda has refused to undergo hormone suppression treatment.
Media reports say Zambia have also lost out on the services of Spain-based duo Rachel Nachula and Racheal Kundananji after blood tests revealed high testosterone levels.
Both CAF President Patrice Motsepe and CAF's communications director Lux September have not offered the media an explanation for Banda's absence in Morocco.
FAZ have taken exception to CAF's stony silence on the matter and feels the continental body seems bent on disowning its processes before the watching world media.
“It was grossly unfair from CAF because all the federations participating in this tournament have been subjected to the competition rules which have been set by CAF," said FAZ president Andrew Kamanga.
"In this respect, we were compelled to deal with medical requirements as part of eligibility. For CAF to turn around and say they were not aware is grossly unfortunate.
“Whatever we do is part and parcel of what CAF requires. We did not exclude any player but in this case, followed CAF regulations as prescribed by CAF.”
The top four teams at the 12-nation tournament will automatically qualify for the FIFA World Cup set to be co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand.