Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Redefining women in sports

All Write

CONTINUING from Saturday’s piece on Caster Semenya, here’s an attempt to discuss the runner’s testosterone issue in my humble bid to further explain the male hormone’s major role in sports.

As already mentioned here, Semenya, the two-time Olympic champion in the 800 meters, was banned from further competing in IAAF-sanctioned events if she won’t lower her testosterone level to standards set by the world governing body in athletics.

This came about after the CAS (Court of Arbitration for Sports) voted 2-1 to uphold the IAAF’s ruling to reduce her unusually high male hormones aka testosterone before she could compete again under the IAAF umbrella.

In a nutshell, testosterone strengthens muscle tone and bone mass. It is therefore against the rules for athletes to use testosterone supplements.

But some women not on testosterone supplements have what is known as hyperandrogenism, the state wherein they have natural levels that are unusually high.

That’s the state that Semenya is in.

With the CAS verdict, the IAAF will now require women to reduce their levels below 5 nanomoles per liter of blood. For, according to the IAAF, females, including elite athletes, have levels of testosterone circulating naturally in their bodies of 0.12 nanomoles to 1.79 nanomoles per liter. Men have levels that can be dozens or even hundreds of times higher—typically 7.9 to 29.4.

No one knows Semenya’s levels as her case is considered private medical information.

The South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee, to which Semenya belongs, has decried the ruling against the world champion.

In a statement, it said: “We maintain that the rules are ill-thought and will be a source of distress for the targeted female athletes.”

Interviewed by AP’s Graham Dunbar, South African sports official Natalie du Toit said: “This decision marks a massive turning point as it now redefines what a female athlete in particular is. Knowing Caster and the hard work she has put into her sport, we support all her endeavors, and we are all behind her.”

If God can only speak up.


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