The International Association of Athletics Federations’ (IAAF) new regulations regarding eligibility for female athletes to compete have made it clear that they are targeting intersex women. In the earlier regulations they had used the word hyperandrogenism, but that was a veil for their real target which are intersex women.
That said, the regulations issued by the IAAF today retains many of the problems as it still requires women to lower their testosterone levels, which is actually medically unnecessary. However, what it does this time is to give a series of false choices for women with high T (testosterone) by saying that they can participate with men or that intersex athletes can compete nationally in the women’s competition, but not at the international level.
In my opinion, all the options for women with high T do not allow for meaningful competition. All the options available to intersex women can potentially end their career and will not allow them to reach the pinnacle of their sport. It is humiliating for somebody to participate in a category they don’t identify with and it will also end careers because they may never win an Olympic medal when competing with men.
Also the new regulations are not logical when it comes to the restricted events — track events from 400 metres to one mile. This is because in a study published in July (leveling the playing field in female sport), which the IAAF had said supported the suspended hyperandrogenism guidelines, the greatest performance advantage was in the hammer throw and the pole vault and 800 metres was the lowest.
But why are the hammer throw and pole vault not part of this regulation. I would argue that it is because they are not sports in which women from the Global South – Indian sub-continent and Africa – excel in. The IAAF need not tell us who they are targeting but we can see from the nature of the regulations who they are targetting. Moreover, in the 1,500m , there was no performance advantage according to the study. I think they did this to remove Caster Semenya from competition and also to close the Dutee Chand case as she is a sprinter and her events are not among the restricted events.
The reason they did this was because now they could release the new regulations rather than have CAS reviewing their evidence. It would now require another athlete to file a case for these regulations to be challenged.
These regulations come as no surprise because from 2009 they have tried to remove Caster Semenya. They will tell you that Semenya is not the intended target but when you line up all the evidence it is clear who they are trying to stop. When the IAAF comes with a regulation like this they are essentially also targetting South Africa.
All of the cases (of hyperandrogenism) that I have heard about, which are public ones and not so public ones, are women from the Global South and the IAAF knows that and it is not a secret. It is not that there is a large number of women from, say Belgium, who will be affected by this regulation.
If there is an athlete who wanted to bring a case now it would be ideal because I think we would win. The targetting of intersex women has become so transparent that we don’t have to make that argument anymore because these regulations make the bias clear. Dutee’s case took nearly four years to run its course and it was a tremendous burden on her.
But I am really proud that she went to CAS. Dutee fought a courageous battle though she was so young and she also had to pay a price. I am not saying that women who have been affected by these new regulations won’t be courageous but there are so many things which can disturb you that I don’t know if there will be anyone to challenge these regulations.
Karkazis testified as an expert during the Chand vesus IAAF hearing at the Court of Arbitration for Sports in Lausanne. She is Senior Visiting Fellow, Global Health Justice Partnership, at Yale University. She spoke to Nihal Koshie