The Court of Arbitration for Sport has suspended regulations on hyperandrogenism – a condition which causes excessive testosterone which clouded Caster Semenya’s high profile victory in the World Championships.
In 2009, at the height of controversy of hyperandrogenism, Caster Semenya’s victory was shadowed by accusations that she was not fit to compete in the women’s championships. Commentators doubted her gender and Semenya was subject to gender tests. The tests revealed that Semenya was chromosomally a female, with higher levels of testosterone than the average female.
Sports scientist Ross Tucker argues that high levels of testosterone in female athletes confers an unfair advantage and suggests that a good performance by Semenya or Dutee Chand, an Indian sprinter, would give the ruling body the evidence they need to class hyperandrogenism as an unfair advantage.
However, other commenters have pointed out that even if this is a genetic advantage in sports, it is one of many that are not regulated by ruling sporting bodies. More than 200 genetic variations have been identified that provide an advantage in elite support, such as improving blood flow to muscles and increased energy production.
Had hyperandrogenism been considered an unfair advantage, both Chand and Semenya may have been forced to undergo androgen suppression therapy. Medicine applicants should investigate the ethics of medical intervention that isn’t medically necessary. Human Sciences and HSPS applicants should consider the social policing of women’s bodies in sport, and why strong female athletes are often faced with criticism about their appearance and perceived masculinity.