South African – who won Olympic gold at London 2012 and Rio 2016 – has levels of testosterone three times higher than an average woman due to hyperandrogenism
CASTER SEMENYA is tipped to dominate in the women’s 1500 metres tonight – but there are those who believe she has an unfair advantage.
The South African was controversially forced to undergo gender testing by the IAAF before being cleared to compete in 2010 due to a rare condition.
Semenya – who won World Championships gold in the 800m in 2009 and added an Olympic silver at London 2012 – has levels of testosterone three times higher than is expected in women due to hyperandrogenism.
Her London silver was later upgraded to a gold after Russia’s Mariya Savinova was found to have broken anti-doping rules after testing positive for oxandrolone as part of the country’s state-sponsored doping regime.
Semenya has no womb or ovaries but, because of a chromosomal abnormality, internal testes.
Semenya identifies as a woman – as is anybody’s right – but some would label her as intersex.
And Joanna Harper – a member of a panel that advises the International Olympic Committee on gender issues – believes intersex athletes could dominate certain events.
Back before the Rio Games she said: “I believe that it is not unreasonable to suggest that half of the eight-woman 800m final in Rio might well be intersex.
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“And it is not unlikely that three presumably intersex women will sweep the podium.”
Semenya did indeed win the final Olympic final, in a time of 1min 55.28sec as she beat Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi and Margaret Wambui of Kenya.
The issue arises over the wish not to unfairly discriminate against female athletes who have higher testosterone levels through no fault of their own while ensuring a level playing field.
But where there is no evidence whatsoever of doping – as in Semenya’s case – it is difficult to end an athlete’s dreams without a clear reason why.
And in modern society which is increasingly leaning towards viewing gender on a scale as opposed to opposites, opinion is firmly behind Semenya’s right to represent her country.