Ahead of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, the Sports Authority of India (SAI) has conducted a gender verification test on a junior woman sprinter. The SAI is keen to avoid the embarrassment of the 2006 Asian Games, when 800 metre runner Santhi Soundarajan failed a similar test in Doha.
The rising star, whose pet events are the 100 metres and 200 metres, is the only Indian athlete who has undergone a gender test this year, when both the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games are set to be held.
SAI Director General Jiji Thomson told The Indian Express that the test was conducted by SAI’s medical officers at their Bangalore campus after suspicions were raised about the athlete’s gender. He said the athlete’s participation in international events is subject to the result of the test.
“A couple of months ago, we were tipped off regarding this athlete and there were doubts raised over her gender. It was our duty to ensure that an international embarrassment was avoided and hence I ordered a gender test,” said Thomson.
“It is a sensitive issue and I don’t have the details of the result of the test. But if the athlete fails the test, we will definitely not allow her to participate in the Commonwealth Games,” he said.
“We’ve had such cases in the past. Since then, we have adopted a zero tolerance policy. We insisted on conducting a sex test so that we are clear about the gender of the athlete before sending her to any international tournament. Otherwise, it brings shame to the country and puts us in trouble,” said Thomson.
Athletics Federation of India (AFI) Secretary C K Valson confirmed that the sprinter was set to participate in the World Junior Athletics Championships in Eugene from July 22 to 27. “As of today, the athlete is part of the national camp. We have not been made aware of the result of the test conducted and currently there is no reason for her to be dropped from the team,” said Valson.
The issue also came up at the National Inter-state Championships held in Lucknow last month — the selection trials for the Commonwealth Games. However, the AFI did not consider it necessary to conduct a gender test on the athlete, who has tasted success at the Asian junior event, as no official complaint was registered by any of her competitors.
“Gender in athletics is a grey area and a sensitive issue. The general consensus within the AFI is to allow her to participate till somebody raises an objection. The AFI does not want to stall the progress of a medal prospect, especially when nobody has objected to her participation even at international meets. Even 800 metre world champion Caster Semenya was allowed to return to competition though the IAAF had not released the result of the gender verification test conducted on her,” said a top AFI official who was present at the Lucknow meet.
(The name of the athlete has been withheld as the result of the gender verification test has not been made public.)