Caster Semenya should not be permitted to compete in the Rio Olympics

June 27, 2016 0

© Copyright – 2016 – Athletics Illustrated

No way should women with hyperandrogenism like South Africa’s Caster Semenya and Dutee Chand of India compete in the Olympic Games against women, without regulation of their testosterone levels. As their testosterone levels are too high, it is wholly unfair to the assumed clean athletes that they will compete against.

If a female athlete without hyperandrogenism has testosterone levels that are too high, she is likely to be suspected of doping and can face suspension. Certainly her Athlete Biological Passport (ABP) is a “record”, which can be used to make assumptions about her “cleanliness” as her history is documented and markers are established. Rather than testing for specific drugs, there is a history of variances to guide the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) in informing their suspensions of athletes for testing positive for performance enhancing drugs or for anomalies in their ABP.

There is no governor on women with hyperandrogenism.

Somehow the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled against the IAAF that establishing upper limits on testosterone – a performance enhancer – is wrong.

So what’s a clean athlete to do?

It is an uncomfortable subject and seems unfair, but too bad. The athletes should either have their testosterone limited as Semenya once had or race against men only. A third and ridiculous option is to allow all women to do what they need to, to bring their testosterone levels up to that of Semenya and Chand’s.

The IAAF ruled that women’s testosterone levels must be limited to 10nmol per litre, so that there is an even playing field established. Once Semenya’s levels were limited, she could no longer compete at her previous level; in fact, she couldn’t qualify for the Commonwealth Games in the 800m event. This weakening in performance is remarkable considering she was close to the world record at age 18 – the oldest track records on the books.

At normal testosterone levels, Caster Semenya is simply just not good enough.

The upper limit of 10nmol per litre is three times as high as the average woman, 99 times out of 100. Semenya had plenty of head room. In her failing to compete, she proved anecdotally, that her elevated (naturally) testosterone levels were indeed a performance enhancer.

Somehow the CAS decided that it was not, dumbfounding one of sport’s most knowledgeable scientific writers, Ross Tucker, Author at The Science of Sport, who wrote:

That CAS ruled this way because they felt that there was insufficient evidence for the performance benefits is one of the stupidest, most bemusing legal/scientific decisions ever made..

That ruling to reverse the IAAF’s upper limit policy is absolutely reprehensible. How is it fair for the other assumed clean 100 or so competitors, who will toe-the-line to start the first rounds of the 800m and 1500m events? It isn’t, it is completely unfair.

It appears that based on recent performances by Semenya – without limiting her testosterone – she is ready to win gold medals in the 800 and 1500-metre events in Rio.

During the 2012 London Olympic Games 800-metre finals, the only athlete to beat Semenya was a convicted Russian drug cheat, Mariya Savinova. The bronze medallist is a convicted drug cheat from Russia named Ekaterina Poistogova. Fellow Russian Elena Arzhakova finished in sixth place. She has also been suspended for testing positive for performance enhancing drugs.

There are those who believe that Semenya eased up in that final to avoid winning and drawing more attention to herself. She denied doing so.

For all of the athletes who train and compete for years with their primary life focus to compete on the world stage, the CAS ruling is completely unfair and should be reversed (somehow) before the Rio Olympic Games begin.

The Rio Olympic Games will be a spectacle of sport and human drama as it is; the sport of athletics, at this stage (in its demise), does not need a circus-like story to add to the atmosphere.

The Olympics are the largest and most effective opportunity to convert fans over to the sport of athletics.

How is any general sports fan going to take athletics seriously?

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