To run faster than anyone ever before, is the dream of every athlete… To hold a medal and to stand on the podium built from hard work, sweat and tears. Although this may never be possible for us with the new and existing athletes that are distressing our competitive and elite scene in various world-class sports. This is coupled by the indecisive ruling and thinking of world athletic organisations such as the International Association of Athletics of Federations. An example of the epitome of this issue Is distributing within the sport of athletics at the highest level, with the figure known as Caster Semenya of South Africa and companions of Francine Niyonsaba and Margaret Wambui taking all the gold, silver and bronze medals available, even seizing a chance at a 2018 Commonwealth Games medal on our own soil, for our very own young Australian athlete Keely Small. This star was less than the age of an adult and still in school, meaning that it would have been life-changing for family and friends and would have set the star up for the entirety of her competitive sporting career. Will this sport for women ever be the same again? We know the answer to this if transgender and intersex athletes continue to grasp the opportunities of our very own and threaten the culture of sport. World athletic organisations such as the IAAF need to knuckle down and determine a solution for all, potentially going back to old ways. Thereby it is decided that there should be a separate and individual category(s) for these athletes but not being excluded from competition entirely, where all physical abilities are the same as it was meant to be.
Previously, the International Athletics Association of Federations, also known as the IAAF, tested all female athletes for their chromosomes, and banned intersex athletes until the 1990s. After protest from transgender athletes, they changed their test to measure testosterone levels instead, and allowed intersex athletes to compete again.
Some numbers on this regulation can be discussed. The normal T range for men is 10-35 nanomoles per liter, and for women it is 0.35-2.0 nanomoles per liter. The IAAF chose to set the maximum level for women, at the male minimum of ten for intersex athletes. This means some intersex female athletes can have as much as three times the amount of testosterone in their blood, compared to other athletes. Most women can’t achieve such high levels without doping or taking steroids.
Prominent sports scientist Ross Tucker said in an interview with The Guardian that Semenya’s testosterone levels could be helping her run ‘up to seven seconds faster’ than other female athletes. Most of the certified female competing can improve by up to two to three seconds in a season with vigorous training, showing the difference and extend to which this can be in just. If the IAAF has set standards for drugs, then they need to reconsider their stance on other unfair advantages.
You might be wondering, what is the secret to Semenya’s success, running up to half a track ahead of these other elite real female athletes? The answer lies at the chromosomal level and in the high levels of testosterone and ‘hyperandrogenism’ condition. Despite being considered a female athlete, Semenya has intersex genetic makeup that makes her faster, stronger, and more durable than her peers, some would say even ‘superhuman’. Semenya has been identified as not having XX sex chromosomes (female), but rather having XY chromosomes associated with being male, with the Y chromosome carrying the SRY gene that leads to the development of male phenotypes such as testes as Caster is known to have internally. This gives her an indescribable advantage against her female competitors, and for that reason, intersex athletes should compete in their own division and organisations such as the IAAF should divert back to old ways of chromosomal testing.
A counter to this point is that ‘just having XY chromosomes is not enough to actually make someone a male’, but clearly it is as the Y chromosome can influence countless other male/intersex characteristics that provide a proven physical advantage, as according to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, intersex individuals are born with any of the several variations of sex characteristics and ‘do not fit the typical definitions for male or female bodies’.. This includes chromosomes, sex hormones (such as testosterone as these athletes are known to have substantial levels of – further being specifically targeted/regulated by the IAAF only), gonads (such as testes or ovaries as Semenya is known to have) and sexual characteristics.
Likewise, Semenya’s companions of Francine Niyonsaba and Margaret Wambui also are known to have the XY sex chromosomes as well as an additional intersex condition(s) allowing increased testosterone levels. These figures are virtually competitively engineered and are completely and biologically different to the females they are ‘competing’ against. An example that has affected us Australian’s personally is in the 2018 Commonwealth Games as a potential medallist for the Women’s 800m in the young Keely Small was prevented from fulfilling her dreams, as Caster Semenya and Margaret Wambui cleared up the podium for 1st and 2nd, let alone an guiltless Jamaican placing 3rd; winning without the biologically advantaged athletes.