American Journal of Bioethics.

Out of Bounds? A Critique of the New Policies on Hyperandrogenism in Elite Female Athletes

In May 2011, more than a decade after the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) abandoned sex testing, they devised new policies in response to the IAAF’s treatment of Caster Semenya, the South African runner whose sex was challenged because of her spectacular win and powerful physique that fueled an international frenzy questioning her sex and legitimacy to compete as female. These policies claim that atypically high levels of endogenous testosterone in women (caused by various medical conditions) create an unfair advantage and must be regulated. Against the backdrop of Semenya’s case and the scientific and historical complexity of “gender verification” in elite sports, we question the new policies on three grounds: (1) the underlying scientific assumptions; (2) the policymaking process; and (3) the potential to achieve fairness for female athletes. We find the policies in each of these domains significantly flawed and therefore argue they should be withdrawn.

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Volume 12, Issue 7
July 2012