IAAF Inadvertently (?) Creates New Gender
South African runner and Olympic champion Caster Semenya has caused some controversy in the world of running a set distance swiftly. Caster was born with a higher level of testosterone than most women, which is said to increase her competitive advantage. As a result, she will soon no longer be able to compete with other women.
The IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) has said it wants to maintain a level playing field in athletics and had enough of Caster beating all her contestants with ease. As a result, they ruled that women with an elevated level of testosterone cannot compete in the 400-1600m events unless they a) are recognised as either female of intersex by law b) reduce their testosterone levels to below 5nmol/L c) maintain their testosterone levels below the threshold. By doing so, the IAAF has inadvertently (?) created a new gender; the woman who runs exclusively between 400 and 1600 metres.
To clarify, you need to take drugs to become the woman the IAAF intended you to be? Sebastian Coe, President of the IAAF, explains he wants athletes to be incentivised to make the huge commitment and sacrifice required in the sport. Sacrifices include taking drugs that make you worse at what you do and make sure Sebastian can say athletics isn’t predictable.
Caster appealed and lost the ruling, but maintains she’ll “always run 800 metres …The 800 metres is [her] calling, [she] believe[s] in it. [she] can’t be forced to switch races” and that, “[no] man can tell [her] what to do”. Sebastian is yet to confirm his testosterone levels to establish whether he qualifies.
But, isn’t any Olympic athlete bound to have a physical advantage over the average person? Usain Bolt holds the three best 100m times and Michael Phelps winning 28 gold medals doesn’t exactly scream level playing field either. Yet, nobody’s asking men who are short of breath and scared of water to take medication order to compete with them.
In fact, in order to combat athletes taking drugs of any sort, the WADA (World Anti-doping Agency) took the time to define ‘the spirit of sport’; “the essence of Olympism, the pursuit of human excellence through the dedicated perfection of each person’s talents”. Talents include amazing housekeeping skills for curling and an extremely long attention span for cricket.
Athletics South Africa is outraged by the IAAF’s ruling and decided to bring out the big guns: “South Africa knows discrimination better and CAS has seen it fit to open the wounds of apartheid, a system of discrimination condemned by the whole world as a crime against humanity”. So not only has the IAAF created a new gender, they’ve single handedly reinstated apartheid by changing the criteria for running 400-1600m as a woman. Don’t think the Sebastian saw that one coming.
On Friday Caster won her last 800m race ahead of the new rules being enforced, but before doing so she posted: “Knowing when to walk away is wisdom. Being able to is courage. Walking away with your head held high is dignity”. Better let the IAAF know how far she intends that walk to be.