A day after becoming the first Indian woman in 20 years to win a 100m Asian Games medal, Dutee Chand called on the country’s female athletes not to be pressurised into undergoing medication or be subjected to tests in order to adhere to the latest IAAF rules, which put a cap on naturally-occurring testosterone.
The rule puts a condition on women with hyperandrogenism, a medical condition that produces higher-than-normal testosterone in females, for competing in events ranging from 400m to the mile. According to the new rule, the only way they can gain entry into these disciplines is by lowering their testosterone levels through medication. The new rules comes into effect from November 1 this year.
“It is important that female athletes in India in these five events know their rights with respect to the new (IAAF) policy. If they are approached for testing, they have the right to ask the authorities for the reasons for the test in writing and to ask that an independent ombudsman is appointed to determine whether the alleged reasons for the test are justified, before submitting to any test,” Dutee told The Indian Express.
In 2014, Dutee was asked to undergo invasive tests after the Athletics Federation of India wrote to the Sports Authority of India to check if she was flouting IAAF’s hyperandrogenism guidelines, which placed restrictions on the levels of naturally-occurring hormones such as testosterone in females. Dutee, who was banned and missed the 2014 Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games in the same year, successfully challenged the guidelines at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
The IAAF exempted Dutee’s pet events – 100m and the 200m – when it announced the new rules for female eligibility in April. South African Caster Semenya, the 800 metres Olympic champion, has knocked on the doors of CAS to challenge the current eligibility rules. If female athletes don’t want to undergo hormonal therapy to restrict androgen levels, they only have the option of participating in the ‘intersex’ category or run against men in ‘restricted events’.
Dutee also threw her weight behind Semenya. “The new policy is a modified version of the policy, which I successfully appealed at the CAS in 2014-15. At that time, CAS ruled that the IAAF had not provided sufficient scientific evidence to justify such a policy and the policy has been withdrawn. The remarkable South African runner, Caster Semenya, twice Olympic and three-time world champion, has challenged the new policy and I am confident she will be successful in overturning it at CAS. In her appeal, Caster has the support of many of the finest female athletes in the world, including tennis great Billie Jean King, soccer World Cup champion Abby Wambach, Olympic ice hockey champion Angela Ruggiero and organisations like the Women’s Sports Foundation and the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Girls and Women and Sports and also Athlete Alley,” Dutee said adding that Semenya was her friend and that she admired the South African’s courage to fight for her rights. “Just as I did, she is appealing this unjust rule on behalf of all female athletes.”
Looking back on her dark days when her future was under a cloud, Dutee said that “she did not give up”. “I remember I was completely shaken and clueless until the Sports Authority of India appointed Dr Payoshni Mitra, an independent advisor-cum-mediator, for me. Her help and network were crucial in my fight. I missed the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon because of the ban. But I did not give up. I fought on and off the track to win silver at the 2018 Asian Games. I wish no other athlete would ever have to suffer the humiliation I had to endure.”