Today in “WTF, this is gender discriminatory” news, certain elite female track athletes may be forced to medicate—or forfeit competition.
The International Association of Athletics Federations, or the I.A.A.F., (the governing body of professional track and field) has announced that starting in November, female athletes with hyperandrogenism (i.e. those who naturally have higher testosterone levels than the “average” female) will be forced to take medication to reduce their hormones levels, or compete against men in certain Olympic events. If they refuse, they may be barred from large-scale competitions.
The regulation is ostensibly meant to level the playing field, as the testosterone in their bodies increases speed and strength. But it’s actually a blatant attack on two-time Olympic 800-meter champion Caster Semenya, a South African runner who has undergone intense scrutiny about her gender since entering the international track scene in 2009.
Semenya was born in Ga-Masehlong, South Africa, a poor district where aspiring track athletes like her run barefoot and have little funding to pursue their competitive dreams. Once discovered, she claimed wins at major track competitions with her blazing 800-meter run (a half-mile, her specialty).
Her results were impressive—and, questioned. Following a victory at the World Championships in 2009, the I.A.A.F. forced Semenya to take a sex verification test. According to the I.A.A.F’s general secretary at the time, Pierre Weisse: “She is a woman, but maybe not 100 percent.”
While those results were never officially published, some of findings were leaked, causing rumors to swirl that Semenya was a person with "disorders of sex development" (DSD), a.k.a. intersex. Since, Semenya has been denied entry to certain track meets, had her medals threatened, and has even endured her competitors asking her to expose herself in the bathroom prior to racing to prove that she had the “right” body parts, as reported by the New Yorker.
The controversy rages: Supporters of Semenya claim that it is an infringement on her human rights to be tested and treated unfairly; detractors say that she has an unfair advantage over other female athletes and should be banned from running in female competitions.
A 2014 study found that female athletes with heightened testosterone may be at an advantage of between 1.8 percent to 4.5 percent in certain competitions—but the science at this point is not conclusive. Even if it were, all elite athletes benefit from natural advantages—that is what makes them the best. I am 5 feet tall—sorry, but I will never make it in professional basketball. Michael Phelps’ massive wingspan is 3-inches longer than his height, an abnormality that helped him nab 28 Olympic medals (which, for the record, no one is contesting).
The new regulation creates a slippery slope for the future of professional athletics (there have even been internet rumors of a “intersex” only competition) and yet again demoralizes a great athlete. It’s 2018, folks. Everyone can stay out of Caster Semenya’s vagina and start appreciating her for the talent—and human—that she is.
Megan DiTrolio is the editor of features and special projects at Marie Claire, where she oversees all career coverage and writes and edits stories on women’s issues, politics, cultural trends, and more. In addition to editing feature stories, she programs Marie Claire’s annual Power Trip conference and Marie Claire’s Getting Down To Business Instagram Live franchise.
Prince Harry Reportedly Told King Charles to Be Less Extravagant with Princess Lilibet’s Birthday Gift
The King wanted to go all out for his youngest grandchild.
By Rachel Burchfield
Womanizer Just Unveiled the First-Ever Shower Head Sex Toy
Bringing new meaning to head in the shower.
By Gabrielle Ulubay
Prince Harry Speaks Out on James Hewitt Paternity Rumors, Says He Feared He’d Be “Ousted from the Royal Family”
He is in the U.K. today for his phone hacking trial against Mirror Group Newspapers.
By Rachel Burchfield
36 Ways Women Still Aren't Equal to Men
It's just one of the many ways women still aren't equal to men.
By Brooke Knappenberger
Her Love of Basketball Left Her Stateless
One athlete’s quest for freedom from Afghanistan, where the Taliban's restrictive and regressive policies on women's sports put her life in danger.
By Abigail Pesta
Education for Women and Girls Is Crucial for Climate Justice
In an excerpt from her new book, 'A Bigger Picture,' Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate discusses the impact educated African women and girls can have on solving the climate crisis.
By Vanessa Nakate
It’s Time to End Equal Pay Days and Pass the Equal Rights Amendment
The passage of the ERA is a chance for our country to prove it truly values women.
By Hala Ayala
EMILY's List President Laphonza Butler Has Big Plans for the Organization
Under Butler's leadership, the largest resource for women in politics aims to expand Black political power and become more accessible for candidates across the nation.
By Rachel Epstein
Anita Hill Believes We Can End Gender Violence
Three decades after her landmark testimony in the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings, the esteemed professor and lawyer has a message for leaders: The time is now to prioritize anti-gender violence policies.
By Rachel Epstein
Want to Fight for Abortion Rights in Texas? Raise Your Voice to State Legislators
Emily Cain, executive director of EMILY's List and and former Minority Leader in Maine, says that to stop the assault on reproductive rights, we need to start demanding more from our state legislatures.
By Emily Cain
Your Abortion Questions, Answered
Here, MC debunks common abortion myths you may be increasingly hearing since Texas' near-total abortion ban went into effect.
By Rachel Epstein