Regulations control transgender athletes

Madeline Thiara, Senior Reporter

The international governing body for the sport of athletics, World Athletics, recently banned Olympic gold medalist Caster Semenya from 2021 Olympics track and field events due to a rare genetic health condition.

A recessive intersex condition 5a-Reductase deficiency causes Semenya to have neither male or female organs. Semenya has the XY chromosomes that classify her biologically as a male, but she has identified as female her entire life.

Semenya’s condition causes her to have elevated testosterone levels that can enhance her performance on the track. After winning gold at the 2009 World Championships, Semenya was asked to have sexual verification testing and suspended from international competition for a year. 

World Athletics passed regulations in 2018 prohibiting intersex athletes who have male chromosomes from competing in the 400-meter, 800-meter and 1500-meter runs, events that combine both speed and endurance, unless they lowered their hormone levels.

It argues that a female with high testosterone levels has an unfair advantage in muscle mass and oxygen capacity. The organization admitted that their rules were discriminatory, but claims they were necessary and contributed to fair play.

Semenya lost her final appeal to compete in the 2021 Olympics on Sept. 8 after a court ruling at the Swiss Supreme Court. “I am very disappointed with this ruling but refuse to let World Athletics drug me or stop me from being who I am,” Semenya said.

This mandate brings to light potential arguments over transgender women in athletics, however, in the words Semenya’s lawyer Dorothee Schramm, “We cannot allow a sports federation to override the most fundamental of human rights.”

The World Medical Association has deemed this ruling unethical and potentially harmful to anyone who chooses to reduce her hormone levels. Human Rights Watch stated that World Athletics was “policing women’s bodies on the basis of arbitrary definitions of femininity and racial stereotypes.”

The World Health Organization wrote that the XX/XY binary system is outdated and there are a variety of possible combinations someone can have.

World Athletics’ immoral and discriminatory ruling silences transgender women and creates more stigma regarding the LGBTQ+ community. Women should be able to compete in sports no matter their background and should not have to be drugged to do it.

The World Athletics organization should rethink its decision. Its ruling implies that future transgender women who make the decision to not undergo hormone therapy will have to anyway if they wish to compete.

Instead of making regulations regarding women’s bodies, World Athletics should accept that everyone has unique circumstances. It is hard to see rules like these further the natural patriarchy of sports.

The ruling is a betrayal to both female and LGBTQ+ athletes and forces us to acknowledge the male-dominated aspect of athletics and who it affects.