20 March, 2018

Where, once more, I write about hyperandrogenism

As is customary, the IAAF council met during the World Indoor Championships in Birmingham and discussed, among others, the question of hyperandrogenism. I have written on several occasions on the matter and on the unfortunate decision of the Court of Arbitration for Sport to forbid the mandatory hormone treatment for women with high levels of testosterone. The IAAF appealed this decision and recently presented scientific studies which would justify the measures previously proposed.

In the executive summary of the meeting we can read that

Based on the evidence that’s been collected, Council approved a request to revise the competition regulations for track events whose distances range from 400 metres up to and including one mile. Following some further drafting the regulations will be communicated to CAS before being released. It is anticipated that the regulations to go into effect on 1 November 2018.

At the head of IAAF Sir Sebastian Coe states that "This is one of the toughest subjects my Council and I are discussing. This is not about cheating. No hyperandrogenic athlete has cheated". Wait a minute. How can he say this. Obviously no hyperandrogenic athlete has cheated before the compulsory hormone treatment was instituted. But once it was annulled following the CAS decision, the hyperandrogenic athletes competed without treatment knowing that they had an unfair advantage. Given the situation, this was certainly legal but most assuredly not ethical. Calling this "not cheating" is pure hypocrisy or now-a-days politically correct speaking (but I feel that the two are the same). How can Lord Sebastian reconcile the "no-cheating" absolution with his realistic assessment "we have always believed that testosterone, either naturally produced or artificially inserted into the body, provides significant performance advantages".

I have also a problem with the decision of the IAAF council to concentrate on events between 400 m and the mile. Obviously those are the distances where hyperandrogenic females excel (just think Semenya-Niyonsaba-Wambui). And going back just a few years I cannot help thinking that Maria Mutola, 800 m Olympic and World champion, was also hyperandrogenic. 

Her affair with her training partner Kelly Holmes is no secret (and here we have one more common point with Semenya who got married to a woman). But of course one could argue that women who are not hyperandrogenic in the least may be attracted to women and so I will not pursue this argument.

The choice of these middle distances is obviously based on the results of Bermon and Garnier who found that women with high levels of testosterone performed better in 400 m, 400 m hurdles, 800 m, pole vault and hammer throw. They explain the results for the two last disciplines by remarking that females with high levels of androgens may also benefit from improved visuospatial abilities. The one thing that astonishes me is that there does not seem to exist an advantage for sprinters. But the whole business with the Court of Arbitration for Sport and the quashing of the hormone treatment decision was due to the appeal of Dutee Chand an indian hyperandrogenic sprinter. (Admittedly Chand is not a superlative sprinter with just two bronze medals at the Asian Championships). 

But then what about Helen Stephens, the 1936 Berlin Olympics gold medalist, who dominated the 100 m like nobody else, beating even a proven hermaphrodite, Stella Walsh (aka Stanislawa Walasiewicz)? As I wrote in a previous post of mine I am convinced that Stephens was hyperandrogenic. The Wikipedia tactfully points out that Stephens' longtime friend was Mrs. Mabel Robbe (another common point with Semenya).

I cannot resist the temptation to include a photo of Santhi Soundarajan, an indian middle distance runner who was suspended for high levels of testosterone. Well, the photo speaks for itself.

The IAAF hopes to reverse the CAS decision and establish new rules concerning hyperandrogenism before the beginning of the next season. I guess that we'll have to wait and see.

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