* The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruling on testosterone levels for women in certain events – 400m to a mile – wouldn’t be applicable in national championships.
* The amount of testosterone is the differentiator when it comes to athletic performance of men as compared to women.
These two IAAF statements, part of the clarification issued by the world body on a day the new female eligibility regulations comes into force, has put national athletics federations in a spot. Officials wonder if they will soon be facing a scenario where women athletes, who could be disqualified in international meets for high testosterone levels, might end up on the podium at national meets.
AFI secretary CK Valson admits that a peculiar situation does exist. “There is no mention of the female eligibility rules having to be implemented in national competitions. Unless we have been instructed by the IAAF or CAS to monitor athletes’ participation at the national meets also, how do we get into it? For international competition, CAS has backed the IAAF eligibility rules but for nationals there is no mention,” Valson said.
The AFI secretary said that currently ‘our hands are tied’. “But may be in the future, countries will raise this issue and it could result in the rules expanding to cover national meets. I am saying ‘maybe’ but as of now, it is what it is. Athletes with higher than normal levels of testosterone can participate in the female classification at national meets.”
According to IAAF regulations, such athletes are termed as differences in sex development, or DSD, and if they want to participate in events between the 400 metres and a mile – ‘restricted events’ – at international track and field competitions, they must keep testosterone levels to below 5 nanomoles per litre (nmol/L) for a period of six months.
Why a world record at a domestic meet won’t stand
On Tuesday, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) published briefing notes on the eligibility regulations for female classification. Following are the key FAQs and their answers. There is no restriction on DSD athletes participating at national meets. What happens if a DSD athlete break a world record at a domestic meet? The world record will not be ratified. The regulations require a DSD athlete to comply with the regulations and suppress her testosterone in order to be eligible to set a world record in a restricted event in a competition that is not an international competition. Who are athletes who fall under regulations? These athletes with Differences in Sex Development conditions are legally female (intersex) and have male chromosomes (XY) and not female chromosomes (XX), they have testes and not ovaries and have testosterone in the male range (7.7 to 29.4 nanomoles per litre and have the ability to make use of that testosterone. Will the IAAF remove 1,500 metres and the mile from restricted events as CAS had suggested? The IAAF said that they believe they have enough evidence to show that naturally high levels of testosterone give a performance advantage in the 1,500 metres also. The IAAF, however, said that all regulations will be reviewed in the future if needed. “We may have more date in relation to the 400m and 800m, but there is evidence relating to the longer distances and it is also generally accepted that an elite 800m runner will also excel over the 1,500 m and a mile,” the IAAF stated Why is only testosterone been seen as an advantage when there are other genetic differences length of leg, height and fast twitch muscles? The IAAF states that the only genetic difference that elite sport does not celebrate is the difference between men (male chromosomes XY) and women (XX chromosomes). This is because XY chromosomes produce testes rather than ovaries. Testes produce testosterone in the male range which results in bigger muscles and stronger bones in men and gives a performance advantage. The IAAF states that the CAS has accepted that the main ‘driver of the marked sex difference in sport performance (10% to 12 %) is the physical advantages of having higher levels of testosterone. ENS
The CAS, in its executive summary, accepted that ‘testosterone’ is the primary driver of difference in sports performance between men and women and that the cap is essential for ‘fair competition’ among women.
National federations could also be in a bind if a DSD athlete meets qualifying norms for the World Championships or the Olympic Games at domestic meets in events between 400 metres and a mile. As national-level performances can get jobs and promotions, the athletics circuit in India is abuzz with a debate about the level-playing field for 400m to 1500m races.
The IAAF regulations put the onus on an athlete to take a call on whether to get screened for testosterone levels (analysis of a blood sample) in case she wants to participate in an international competition.
The rule states: “An athlete who is or believes that she may be a relevant athlete must advice the IAAF Medical Manager if she wishes to compete in the female classification in a restricted event at an international competition. Her national federation has the same obligation, rule 3.1 of assessment of cases states.”
AFI president and IAAF council member Adille Sumariwalla believes it is too early to talk with authority on how the eligibility rules can be applied by national federations to screen national-level athletes with potential DSD who have qualified for international events.
“We have to understand the rules a little more as it has just come out. We are waiting to get more clarity on how it (implementation of guidelines) will work at the national level. We understand that we have to follow IAAF rules but the actual practical working of it… how we are going to implement the rules… we are trying to get a few questions answered. If there is any screening to be done, how to go about it. We are hoping to get some clarification over the next week or so from the IAAF. Everybody will come back with issues… in Europe we have these issues, in Africa we have these issues, in Asia we have these issues, in Americas we have these issues. I am sure the IAAF has thought this through but there will be obvious questions,” Sumariwalla said.
On Tuesday, the IAAF released ‘briefing notes’ which sought to clarify an interesting question posed to track and field’s world governing body: Would a world record at a national meet by a DSD athlete who hasn’t taken medication be ratified?
“No, the world record would not be ratified,” the IAAF stated. “The regulations clearly require a DSD athlete to comply with the regulations (and suppress her testosterone) in order to be eligible to set a world record in a restricted event at a competition that is not an International Competition.”
World records, the Olympics, Diamond Leagues and the World Championships are ‘protected’ by the IAAF regulations.
But what about DSD athletes swarming the podium at national meets? The IAAF seems to have turned a blind eye.