MUMBAI: Having broken social barriers, Dutee Chand is once again ready to test her limits on the race track. The 23-year-old, who last month became India’s first openly homosexual athlete, is hoping to shift focus back on her professional career as she gets ready to compete at the World University Games in Napoli, Italy, starting July 3.
“My training was disturbed a lot for the first 10-15 days,” said Dutee, on the sidelines of a Skechers event in Mumbai on Thursday, of the impact her decision to come out had on her career. “I’m starting to forget everything and getting back to my training. I’ve received a lot of support from the public and this has made me feel comfortable.”
It is not the first time that the sprinter has tackled controversy. In 2014, Chand, who hails from a small village in Odisha, was deemed ineligible to compete by IAAF and Athletics Federation of India due to her hyperandrogenism. She successfully appealed in the Court of Arbitration for Sport and went on to win two silver at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta. Across continents, South Africa’s Olympic champion Caster Semenya is still locked in a battle with the IAAF over the issue, and was two days ago, stopped from competing in a meet in Morocco despite being legally eligible for it. “It depends on event organisers, whether they follow IAAF rules. If the CAS gives an order, no one can reject it,” she said of the ongoing legal battle over hyperandrogenism.
“Initially when I was banned in India, I went for a tournament in Railways, but I wasn’t allowed to participate. No matter how much I requested, they didn’t budge. There’s a lot of pressure because of it. When you go to any event, athletes look at you as if you are different. You feel a lot then.”
“There are no rules for men. But for women, there are so many tests. Why is your hormone count so high? How much is your body fat? What is your height? They check everything. But not every human body can be the same. Development of a human body differs even from country to country.”
The IAAF had ruled that female athletes showing high levels of androgen would be allowed to compete only if they take drugs to correct hormone count. That though is applicable only for those competing in events from 400m to a mile, and not for Chand who competes in 100m and 200m events.
Despite being one of the star athletes in the country, she still does not have a sponsor and recently missed out on a chance to train abroad.
“My coach and I had planned for a training stint in Florida,” she said. “But we couldn’t go because we did not get the funding from Odisha government, since they were busy with elections. I mainly wanted to go there to correct my technique.”