There have been athletes with conditions like hyperandrogenism who have participated in 800 metre races along with Tintu Luka. There have been athletes who have won medals but have been caught for doping and at the same time we have athletes like Caster Semenya who have won medals but have an advantage because of naturally high levels of testosterone.
On both fronts, athletes like Tintu Luka lose out.
As a coach, it is very difficult because you know you have trained your athlete in the best possible way, but then in the final phase of the race, athletes like Semenya,will eventually beat you no matter how good you are. You will always be playing catch-up.
Let me make one thing clear, it is not their fault that they have been born with higher levels of naturally-occurring testosterone and I am not against them participating in the women’s category. But the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s verdict is right. They must reduce their testosterone levels to what is considered the normal range for women. Because if a woman has such a high level of testosterone, she definitely has an advantage.
Look at Caster Semenya herself, when after 2009 (World Championships when she won gold in the 800m) she was reportedly told to reduce testosterone levels, her performance dipped. There will be a difference when testosterone levels go down. The ruling will provide a fair field for women athletes.
Also please look at it from the point of view of athletes who have what is considered normal levels of testosterone. They work so hard and put in so much effort but when it comes to the big races they are beaten by someone who has a higher level of testosterone. How can you beat someone who has this big an advantage? They lose out on medals.
There are also a number of athletes in India who I suspect have the condition of hyperandrogenism. If their blood tests are taken, the truth will be out. And because the rules were suspended till CAS decided on the status of athletes like Semenya, many coaches were looking at identifying athletes with higher level of testosterone and grooming them in order to win medals. And that number has been on the rise because coaches know that it is an advantage.
However, this is not something new. It has been happening over the years, and I remember in the 1980s there was a saliva test conducted to check if a woman was eligible to participate in the female category. I remember back in the day, there were many Indian athletes who did well at the national level but could not participate at the international level because they would not be eligible in the female category.
Usha is an Indian track and field legend. She spoke to Nihal Koshie