Tag Archives: Caster Semenya

IAAF Hyperandrogenism Regulations and Caster Semenya’s case

casterSome of my recent academic work can be found here:

Op-eds can be found here:

And you can find some of my early academic work on Caster Semenya here:

MEDIA AND OUTREACH

Radio and Television Commentary and Expert Opinion

Al Jazeera Inside Story (May 2019, Television)

Commentary on CAS ruling against Caster Semenya:

https://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/insidestory/2019/05/athletics-rules-unfairly-target-caster-semenya-190502192112795.html

BBC Radio 5 (May 2019, Radio)

Commentary on CAS ruling against Caster Semenya:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p0769g7f

 BBC Radio London (May 2019)

Commentary on CAS ruling against Caster Semenya:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p0769g7f?fbclid=IwAR1BVHBoJc9R5TxHMJAZHkXNjLx5caiZYOw3StVnNhck81XJ6tqMuIQ2ajg

 BBC Inside Science (April 2019, Radio)

Commentary on experiments carried out at Yale University to reanimate pig heads:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m00046sj

BBC Big Questions (June 2017, Television)

Panelist for episode “Is it ethical to interfere with the genome?”:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b08vg018/the-big-questions-series-10-episode-20

 BBC News Hour Extra (July 2016, Radio)

Commentary for: “A flickering flame: Is the Olympic ideal dead?”:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04263n3

BBC World Service (March 2015, Radio)

Commentary on Dutee Chand’s case:

https://soundcloud.com/bbc-world-service/what-makes-a-woman  

BBC Have Your Say (March 2015, Radio)

Commentary on Dutee Chand’s case:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02m31rq

 

BBC Radio 4 News (March 2015, Radio)

Commentary on Dutee Chand’s case:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b05mrc53

 

BBC World News (February 2015, Television)

Commentary on the case of eugenics victims receiving compensation for sterilization in Virginia:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-kDev7pyloM

My work on Caster Semenya has been quoted in mainstream media and other professional outlets:

Here you can download the original IAAF documents on Hyperandrogenism Regulations (they have been taken off website since suspension of regulation in July 2015 following CAS ruling)

IAAF guidelines Eligibility Hyperandrogenism May 2011

IAAF Hyperandrogenism Regulations – Appendices

 

My commentary on Dutee Chand’s case: When is it fair to be a woman in athletic competition?

The hearing of Dutee Chand is currently underway at the Court for Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne.

Dutee Chand

Dutee Chand

Dutee Chand (19 yo) was disqualified just days before the beginning of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in July 2014 after a medical test determined that her androgen level was above the “normal” limit set by IAAF and IOC policies of 10 nmol/lit. According to the IAAF Regulations (May 2011, link) if Chand is able to reduce her androgen levels to fall within the normal testing range, she will be allowed to resume international competition. She refused to do so and appeal.

The assumption of the IAAF regulations is that hyperandrogenism/testosterone confers an unfair advantage and disrupts the level playing field.

I provided some commentary on Dutee Chand’s appeal for BBC World News Hour on Monday, March 23rd. You can listen to the clip here.

I also participated in a debate on BBC World Service Have Your Say last night. The podcast is available here.

Here’s in brief what I think about the case:

Even if it were case proven (and it is not) that higher levels of androgens provided an advantage, that would not imply that it were unfair. In other words, we do not care whether testosterone provides an advantage or not, we care whether that advantage is unfair. And to demonstrate that it is not we reflect on bigger questions, such as the meaning of athletic excellence, and gender and performing feminity in sport.

We think that exceptional biological and genetic variations are considered part of what the elite athlete is, and of what makes sports completion valuable and admirable: achieving excellence through the combination of talent – the natural endowment of the athlete- and dedication – the efforts in training and preparation that the athlete put forth to maximize what her talent offers. That is we, together with the governing bodies of athletics, do not consider unfair many other genetic variation many other biological and genetic variations which confer an advantage in sport. For example, endurance athletes have mitochondrial vairations that increase aerobic capacity and endurance. More genetic variations and polymorphisms in the genetic basis of sport performance are unravelled as we speak. Why aren’t such genetic and biological variations consider unfair? Because it is part of what we think elite athletes are. The level playing field in competition, which is one of the arguments that is going to be used to upheld the IAAF regulations in the courtoom, does not exist. It is a myth.

 Why is hyperandrogenism singled out? It is only one of these variations. I argue that it is singled out as it challenges deeply entrenched social beliefs of women in sport in a way that other variations do not.

I argue that the IAAF/IOC are now faced with a disruptive dilemma: Either ban from competition all athletes who derive an advantage from biological variations, or let everybody who is “out of the ordinary,” compete, athletes with hyperandrogenism included.

If they do not do so and uphold their regulations, they will stand to create many levels of unfairness while upholding the very opposite fairness ideal.

Hyperandrogenism, unfair advantage and the myth of the level playing field in competition

In this paper, published on the American Journal of Bioethics and co-authored with Katrina Karkazis (Department of Biomedical Ethics, Stanford), Rebecca Jordan-Young (Barnard College, NYC), and Georgiann Davis (Southern Illinois University), I analyse and question the 2011 IAAF  policies on the eligibility of female athletes with hyperandrogenism to compete in the female category.

Caster Semenya

Caster Semenya

We argue that the policies are  flawed on at least three grounds: 1) the underlying scientific assumptions; 2) the policy-making process; and 3) the concept of fairness for female athletes, and that they should be withdrawn.

The new IAAF policies aim at  isolating the presumed positive effect of increased androgen levels on athletic performance from a myriad of other factors. However, as we show in the paper, such a move is logically flawed, and consequently, the new regulations themselves are logically flawed—it is impossible to reduce the complexity of athletic excellence to a univocal relationship between androgen levels and performance.

Read more: my post for Somatosphere.

Karkazis K, Jordan-Young R, Davis G, Camporesi S. (2012) Out of bounds? A critique of the new policies on hyperandrogenism in elite female athletes,  Am Journal Bioethics; 12(7):3-16