A junior woman athlete has been barred from taking part in international competitions after a test conducted by the Sports Authority of India (SAI) concluded that she is “not fit to participate in female events”.
As first reported by The Indian Express on July 14, a junior woman sprinter, whose pet events are the 100 metres and 200 metres, was made to undergo the test after “doubts were raised over her gender”, according to SAI Director General Jiji Thomson.
“The issue of an athlete with hyperandrogenism was brought to our notice by the Athletics Federation of India (AFI). The preliminary investigations indicate that the said athlete is not fit for participation in a female event. For confidentiality protocol, the name cannot be disclosed,” SAI said on Wednesday.
Hyperandrogenism is a term used to describe the excessive production of androgen, primarily testosterone.
The athlete was not part of India’s Commonwealth Games squad announced on Tuesday, which gave rise to speculations of a failed test. She will also not be allowed to compete at the World Junior Athletics Championships in Eugene from July 22-27.
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SAI said it followed the guidelines laid down by the International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) while conducting the test.
“This test does not determine the athlete’s gender. The IOC and the IAAF have banned gender verification tests. This test simply tells us that she has excess androgen in her body and is therefore not eligible to compete in the female category,” it said. “The athlete will still be able to compete in the female category in future if she takes proper medical help and lowers her androgen level to the specified range,” said SAI.
Questions have often been raised about this athlete’s eligibility to participate in women’s events. The issue also came up at the National Inter-State Championships held in Lucknow last month. However, the AFI did not act as no official complaint was filed against her by any of her competitors.
According to an IOC advisory sent ahead of the London Olympics, “Though very rare, a few women develop masculine body characteristics due to an overproduction of male sex hormones called androgen. The androgenic effects on the human body are what causes men to perform better than women in most sports and are, in fact, the very reason for the distinction between male and female competition. Consequently, women with hyperandrogenism generally perform better in sports than other women.”
The IAAF and IOC maintain strict confidentiality until the athlete gives her consent for disclosing her medical information.