Three researchers who were part of the team which helped Indian sprinter Dutee Chand successfully challenge the hyperandrogenism guidelines at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) have asked the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to confirm whether it will allow female athletes with elevated levels of natural androgens (male sex hormone) to compete in the Rio Olympic Games.
Athletes like Chand are currently eligible to participate in the Olympics, provided they qualify, but with less than six months for the Rio Games, the IOC has asked the international athletics federation (IAAF) to approach CAS and get the hyperandrogenism rules reinstated.
Another of IOC’s recommendation, which advices the international athletics federation to field women with hyperandrogenism, if they are not eligible for female competition, in the male category has been red-flagged in the letter addressed to IOC president Thomas Bach.
The timing of IOC’s push for a hearing in CAS — with the Olympic Games around the corner — has resulted in women athletes facing ‘monumental uncertainty regarding whether they will be allowed to compete’, the letter states.
A copy of the letter has also been forwarded to the Toronto-based law firm of Davies Ward Phillips and Vineberg LLP, who represented Chand at CAS.
“Despite the CAS decision to suspend the IAAF Hyperandrogenism Regulations, the IOC has failed to announce whether it will follow this precedent and refrain from implementing its own hyperandrogenism regulations at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, which open in less than six months.
This causes unacceptable uncertainty for athletes in the final months of preparation for what is, for most, the athletic competition of their lifetimes,” the letter signed by Bruce Kidd (University of Toronto), Katrina Karkazis (Stanford University) and Payoshni Mitra (Jadavpur University) stated.
The IOC, after a Consensus Meeting on Sex Reassignment and Hyperandrogenism which was published last month, has said that rules should be in place for the protection of women in sport and the promotion of principles of fair competition.
However, objections have been raised regarding the two other recommendations for hyperandrogenism in females— the first which asks IAAF to approach CAS with evidence to support reinstatement of hyperandrogenism rules and the second talks about fielding women with hyperandrogenism (if ineligible to compete in the female category) in the male category.
Kidd, Karkazis and Mitra have asked the IOC to commit if they will respect the CAS decision and not introduce hyperandrogenism guidelines at the Rio Games and at the same time wants the IOC to retract its new ‘consensus statement’ with regard to hyperandrogenism.
The letter to the IOC states: “What is worse, instead of producing evidence called for by CAS, the IOC has stated that ‘if not eligible for female competition the athlete should be eligible to compete in male competition’. This position is an insensitive and harmful attack on women with hyperandrogenism, many of whom are already stigmatised and have had their gender questioned publicly.
The CAS took care to reinforce that female hyperandrogenism does not make an athlete any less of a woman and that an athlete’s gender is not a matter of debate.
“Regrettably, the IOC’s statement confuses this issue. In doing so it violates the spirit and the letter of the CAS decision by exacerbating the stigma facing women with hyperandrogenism, in respect of which the CAS took an important step towards reducing.”
The letter also claims that the IOC’s statement on female hyperandrogenism does not reflect a consensus among all scholars and stakeholders in this field.
“In attendance were six of the nine witnesses who testified before CAS in support of the IAAF’s now-suspended hyperandrogenism regulations, as well as both of the IAAF’s external lawyers, but none of the 10 members of Dutee Chand’s team of witnesses and counsel who persuaded the CAS to suspend those regulations.”