theThe test was introduced in the 1930s to rule out the presence of “abnormal mathematics”.
In the 1960s, when women began to object to the “naked walks” imposed by testing, the official response was not to cancel them, but rather to replace the practice with hormonal analysis.
Feminists, athletes, genetics, ethicists, and national governments protested, but it wasn’t until the 1990s that the International Amateur Athletics Federation (now known as World Athletics) and the International Olympic Committee ended testing.
But this decision did not last long. In the nitty-gritty of these decisions, the governing bodies reserved the right to appeal the testing of women deemed “suspicious.”
After South African middle-distance runner Caster Semenya won the 2009 World Championships in Berlin, World Athletics and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) set up a “hyperandrogen” test that determines how much natural testosterone a woman can remain eligible.
In 2014, Indian sprinter Dutee Chand was selected for this test and suspended because she was in the process of finishing her preparations for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. With the help of academics Payoshni Mitra and Katrina Karkazis, the Sports Authority of India and Toronto attorneys Jim Bunting and Carlos Sayao, Dutee Chand has appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), sometimes referred to as the Supreme Court of International Sport. She won.
CAS rescinded Chand’s comment and the policy itself, claiming that the scientific evidence presented by the athletic body was not convincing. The IOC canceled the test and Chand and Semenya competed in the Rio Olympics. In 2016, Semenya again triumphed in the 800-meter race.
short term protection
However, optimism that CAS would prove to be an effective protector of women’s rights was short-lived. In 2018, World Athletics imposed a revised threshold of five nanomols of natural testosterone for the five events featuring Semenya’s races – ranging from 400m to 1.6km – and quickly discontinued them. She, too, has appealed to the court for legal aid, citing the reasons for the violation of her basic rights as a woman.
Semenya has provided ample evidence that testing has caused many other women to stop sports, steal their livelihoods, subject them to ridicule and harassment, and, in some extreme cases, force them to undergo physical abuse, including unnecessary and irreversible medical intervention, including surgery. Most of the athletes involved were from southern countries.
It was unsuccessful. While the Court of Arbitration for Sport has recognized that the new regulations are discriminatory, it has said that human rights are outside its remit.
Semenya has since appealed to the European Court of Human Rights, but no ruling has been made public.
The World Athletics decision means Semenya can compete in the 5,000m without having to undergo treatment to lower natural testosterone. Despite being the current South African 5,000m champion, she was not able to meet the Olympic qualification standard. This means that it will not participate in the Tokyo Games.
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