BHUBANESWAR: Athletes and experts on Friday opined that International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and International Olympic Committee (IOC) should revisit their approach in dealing with cases of hyperandrogenism to protect the rights of females with high testosterone.
Participating in the session on ‘Hyperandrogenism - One word, too many opinions’ at Ekamra Sports Literary Festival here, middle distance runner Madeleine Pape, who represented Australia at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, said pressure has already started building on IAAF and IOC as public campaigns are pushing for a change in approach to deal with such cases and ensure that women with high testosterone are not deprived of their right to participate in sports.
“I think IAAF and IOC have to revisit their approach as they are trying to exclude women with high testosterone for decades and their policies continue to fail. They should try a different strategy and invest all their resources in education,” said Madeleine, a vocal critic of sex testing of female athletes.
Hyperandrogenism is characterised by excessive levels of androgen (male sex hormones such as testosterone) circulation in the female body. Due to existing rules in sports, this medical condition has in the past forced many female athletes to undergo gender test, putting a dent in their career for no fault of theirs.
While the issue of hyperandrogenism came to fore in 2009 after South African athlete Caster Semenya came under the IAAF scanner, it led to international debate when Odisha sprinter Dutee Chand became a victim of the athletics body’s policy.
Dutee’s career was forced into uncertainty in 2016 after the international athletics body challenged her participation in events with hyperandrogenism. The sprinter, however, successfully fought the rigid hyperandrogenism policy.
Another Indian athlete from Tamil Nadu, Santhi Soundarajan, also became a victim of hyperandrogenism. Soundarajan, who also participated in the panel discussion on the issue along with Indian equal rights and Indigenous rights activist Gopi Shankar Madurai, narrated the trauma she underwent when she faced a similar problem.
Soundarajan underwent a sex test shortly after winning a silver medal in the women’s 800m at the 2006 Asian Games in Doha and was told that she did not possess the sexual characteristics of a woman. After the results of test were published, she was stripped of her silver medal and told that she cannot compete in sports anymore. But Soundarajan continued her fight to get back her medal.
Gopi Shankar said more support from the public as well as the States and the Centre is required to ensure that the women athletes with such medical condition are not deprived of their rights.