The problem with sex testing in sports

The problem with sex testing in sports


With a few seconds to go in the women’s 800 meters,
the group of athletes was tightly packed. Then on the final straightaway Three years later, the South African runner was at a court appealing a ban that could keep her from defending her title at the next Olympics. She wasn’t being banned because she cheated, but because sports officials had decided that she no longer qualified as a female athlete. “So effectively you’re saying to her: you no longer belong in sport!’” “I cannot stop because of people say, ‘Nooo! She looks like a man!’ “Is the new world champion of the women’s
800 meter race, really a woman at all?” “There is no scientific test or anything
that can define a human.” “…there will be two X chromosomes…” “We have drawn the line between
women’s and men’s sport.” “…being who we are so that we
can be the best that we can be.” “Such allegations, if I may say,
they are not my business. You understand? So for me, they do their job. I do my job. I do me. They do them. From the start, Semenya’s career
has been defined by two things… “Brilliant run for the South African!” …winning races and defending
her identity as a female athlete. “…and she’s breaking away!” Back in 2009, she won the
800 meter world championship. “Semenya looks over her shoulder and she’s away!” But soon after her victory,
sports authorities began questioning whether she was, in fact, a woman. “…well that smashes the world list!” “They are looking for proof that South Africa’s
golden girl is not a boy.” “There is doubt about the fact that this
person is a lady…is a woman.” In South Africa her win was celebrated. “She is a female. She won!” But the top governing body for athletics,
The IAAF, selected Semenya for testing to determine whether she is female. Most recently, their criteria for female competitors has been testosterone: a hormone
produced by both men and women. Semenya has naturally high levels of testosterone and the IAAF claims that there is a significant connection between
high testosterone and athletic performance. But it’s more complicated than that. “Testosterone is related to lean body mass
and building of muscle. But it’s not the only thing that contributes to that.” This is Katrina Karkazis, is a bioethicist who
advocates on behalf of athletes like Semenya. Testosterone is not the only factor that is
important for an individual’s athletic performance. There are not only other physiological factors:
that could be V02 max, heart size, any number of things. But there are factors that don’t have
to do with someone’s physiology. Factors like nutrition, coaching, and equipment
all play into an athlete’s performance. So it’s unclear how testosterone can be
singled out as the defining factor. But there’s another way to think about eliminating
female athletes based on testosterone… Like many Olympians, Semenya’s body has
natural advantages that can help her perform. “…Michael Phelps stands 6′ 4″…” For swimmer Michael Phelps, it was a long torso, wide feet, and other features
glorified in Olympic promos. “…his size 14 feet might as well be flippers!” But unlike Phelps, Semenya is being penalized
for a naturally occurring hormone. That’s because sports officials don’t
divide athletics by the size of your hand, or your foot, but they do draw a line between men and women. The problem is, the criteria that’s used
to draw that line and it’s always been problematic. Charlotte Cooper won gold in 1900, the first
year women were included at the Olympics. Since then, more and more women have competed
and stood on Olympic podiums. But by the 1960s, officials became skeptical
that successful female athletes might actually be men disguised as women. Polish sprinter Ewa Klobukowska, for example,
had won bronze running the women’s 100 meters at the 1964 Olympics. A few years later, officials made sex testing
mandatory for female athletes at the 1966 European Track and Field Championships and Klobukowska was forced to undergo inspection. She was physically examined in what
was called a “nude parade”: where female athletes were examined
by a panel of doctors who would inspect their genitals to confirm their sex. Klobukowska passed her test and
qualified as female in 1966, but the next year officials replaced physical
exams with chromosomal testing, meaning she would have to be tested all over again. Old sex ed films taught that a chromosome pairing of XX from a mother and father means a child will be female. “…and this always means a girl.” And an XY pairing will create a male. “…that’s right, a boy!” The chromosomes we’re born with are part of sex, which also takes into account genetic,
physical, and hormonal information. It’s different from gender, which is the
way someone identifies in the world as a woman, a man, or nonbinary, or something else. Beyond the typical categories of
XX females and XY males, “…that’s right, a boy!” There are many other ways a body can develop. People who have differences of sexual development, or DSD, are also known as intersex and many people can reach sexual maturity
without ever knowing they have a DSD. When sports officials changed the sex testing
criteria, Klobukowska failed the new version and she was banned from competing as female despite
having passed the female exam a year before. By the 2000s, chromosome testing fell out
of favor and in 2011 officials introduced a testosterone limit. Dutee Chand, an Indian sprinter who naturally
produces high levels of testosterone was put through the new test in 2014. The testosterone limit for female athletes
had been set at 10 nanomoles per liter, which the IAAF considered the lower end
of normal male levels. Chand failed her test and was banned
from competing as female. She appealed the decision, arguing that
the IAAF lacked scientific evidence linking high testosterone to performance. The Court of Arbitration for Sport agreed
with her and lifted the ban. In doing so, they said the IAAF
needed evidence showing a link between high testosterone and increased performance. The decision allowed Chand and other athletes, including Caster Semenya, to compete at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. But in 2018, authorities returned with a new
testosterone limit, and this time they had evidence that female athletes with high testosterone
outperformed in certain events. But here’s the catch: he IAAF commissioned the study the evidence came from and the data has been
questioned by members of the scientific community. Despite the scrutiny, the IAAF set the new testosterone limit even lower,
at 5 nanomoles per liter, and only applied it to track distances between 400 meters and the mile, which includes all the events
that Semenya typically runs. It’s the reason Semenya was banned. But before the ban could take affect, she
was at the Court of Arbitration for Sport to fight her right to compete. “…can we have a turnaround?
Turn around for a second?” She would lose her appeal. “The Court of Arbitration for Sport dismissed
the South African star’s appeal, meaning she’ll now have to take drugs to lower her
testosterone levels if she wants to compete.” “..a landmark ruling against Olympic
gold medalist Caster Semenya…” “She will not be able to compete in the 400 and
the 800 meters and in the 1500 meters.” The ban would require Semenya to undergo medical
treatment to lower her testosterone, which could potentially cause harmful side effects. This is something Semenya has
spoken out against in the past. A few years ago she told the BBC: “I’d rather just be natural, you know, be who I am. I was born like this. So I don’t want any changes, so yeah.” The United Nations has supported Semenya and were joined by the World Medical Association
in criticizing the ban. “…and she said she doesn’t want to take this
type of medication and I think she is right.” “It’s entirely unethical to administer drugs to
someone who doesn’t need them.” Semenya isn’t the only athlete affected. The other top two runners in Rio, silver medalist Francine Niyonsaba and
bronze medalist Margaret Wambui have also said they were affected by the ruling. Meaning all three podium finishers from Rio
might be banned from defending their title at the next Olympics unless they take steps
to regulate their natural levels of testosterone. For their part, IAAF officials described the
regulation as discriminatory, but necessary. “Such discrimination is a necessary, reasonable,
and proportionate means of achieving the IAAF’s objective of preserving the
integrity of female athletics…” The ruling also upholds a policy that only
athletes identified as suspicious need to be tested. That means deciding who is tested can depend
on an athlete’s appearance and it might be that non-white athletes from
the global South, like Chand, Semenya, and the other top finishers in Rio are
being selected for testing because they don’t fit somebody’s stereotype of
what a female looks like. Confusion about Caster Semenya’s case
has led to misunderstanding and news outlets have wrongly
portrayed her as transgender. She isn’t. And the problem of dividing athletes by sex has nothing to do with their gender. It’s rooted in sex and athletic officials
inability to find a criteria that will fairly divide athletes into the two categories of
men and women. History shows that whenever sports are divided by sex, the athletes who qualify as female change
depending on the criteria used to draw that line. “It’s now 10 years that the IAAF have scrutinized
Caster Semenya and tried to keep her out of sport or at least to slow her down.” But the scrutiny hasn’t stopped her. After losing her appeal this year, Semenya
brought the case to another court that agreed to suspend the ban for the time being. In the meantime, she continues to keep running. “If she was trying to make a statement she’ll
make it here in the last 100 meters.” She ran a race just before the ban was set to begin. “Impressive and dominant performance
by Caster Semenya.” After winning it, she was asked what comes next. “What happens for you now?” “I keep training, I keep running. So, doesn’t matter!” “I’m just gonna enjoy my life and then live it!” “You try to be in front of me? I jump you.
So, that’s how life it is.”

100 Replies to “The problem with sex testing in sports”

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  2. Wow. New levels of idiocy. Let's refer to the fact that ALL of the people who meddled were XY intersex. That might seem to indicate some sort of an unfair advantage. Just a thought.

  3. Men are physically stronger than women, transgender women ARE women, but anyone who thinks being a biological woman is the same with being a transgender woman is fooling themselves.

    If you want these transgender women to stop being 'discriminated' against, then make ALL sports Unisex, where regardless of if you're a man/woman you can compete. I'm against this though because then the only ones winning will be men and sometimes transgender women.

    So, stop your mental-gymnastics and let's draw the line that if you're a transgender woman you CANNOT compete with other biological women in a sport, just like a transgender man cannot compete with other biological men in a sport.

  4. So men with low testosterone can’t compete as men, and women with high testosterone can’t compete as women?

    B r u h

  5. I’m very much on the fence with this whole Caster Semenya thing. The only thing I’m sure of is that Caster is a genuinely good human and it’s unfortunate she’s had to go through this.

  6. Here's a wild thought: Why not create separate competitions for transgender and intersex people? Surely, this would please both sides… If there is a separation between men and women, then why not separate intersex and trans? I understand that currently this would not be feasible, because of differing international attitudes, but maybe this could develop from the local level and eventually, progress towards the national level and even the international level.

  7. Yo that african guy is a guy. Cant fool me. He sounds like my uncle Ralo Taylor. We call him June bug cauz he likes to drink during the month of june like all the other months.

  8. 'Testosterone has nothing to do with performance' , top 3 finishers at 2016 Olympics had naturally high levels of testosterone it is obvious testosterone is closely linked to performance.

  9. Only women that look suspicious will be tested for it ?? I can’t already tell they are going to abuse black women 😞 and try to use their testosterone level as a way to exclude them .

  10. Ok, so if this athlete was born with X-Y chromosomes, why is it that they call her a she? I don't get this at all.

  11. 9:40 "it MIGHT be that non white athletes are being selected for testing because the dont fit… stereotype"
    Nothing like a baseless claim presented as fact eh VOX?
    this is one of the worst VOX

  12. 11:17 "make sure nothing keeps your from enjoying your life……… unless you are a biological woman who just wants to compete against other women to win your sports category …. then tough I guess"

  13. This is a man. But the very foundation of liberalism is pretense. Liberalism is a cancer that must be destroyed.

  14. High testosterone is a deal breaker, go compete against other athletes with high testosterone, ie, Men…nice try, buddy.

  15. Bolt should of not competed in the Olympics, he was confirmed to be a rare species of cheetah that stands upright.

  16. Some women can have a Y chromasome. It's called Swyer syndrome. Look it up before leaving ignorant comments.

  17. So they're getting banned because of puberty (it's not their fault that they were born to not give breast milk).

  18. So hey I am a man and if I can lower my testosterone enough then is it okay for me to compete against women in boxing and weight lifting

  19. Wheres the problem with Chromosome Testing? I mean you cant change that right? Btw Semenya looks like a dude tbh

  20. Why is there even a man/woman split on sport competitions?
    Just let everybody compete against everybody and that's it.
    The one who wins is the best and THAT'S IT.

  21. The reason is complicated because we all want to be inclusive. However it is an impossible task to be fair to women and fair to transwomen. Everything "solution" is nothing of the sort, or based on statements that have no evidence.

  22. If everyone was in the same race (men and women) this wouldn't be a problem.
    So either make one race for everyone, or three races for men, women, and trans/intersex/undecided/ etc.

  23. Testosterone does increase performance. I mean come on all the podium finishers have a high level of it. That's why men perform better. I don't know how they should handle this situation but I understand why it is a problem.

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