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Caster Semenya ruling & its potential impact on women sports


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#1 Sincerely

Posted 02 May 2019 - 07:45 AM

Normally I don't express public views on gender issues but I think this ruling is so unfair. IMO, it's ridiculous someone has to suppress their natural levels of hormone secretion to be eligible to compete in sport.

https://www.bbc.com/...africa-48120228

Edited by Sincerely, 02 May 2019 - 07:58 AM.


#2 Bam1

Posted 02 May 2019 - 08:06 AM

It is very unfair, women with naturally occurring testosterone should not be an issue, most elite athletes have some physical trait that sets them apart.

But we are coming to a time where males who self identify as women are expected to be allowed to compete in female competitions and it looks like the associations have this in mind with this decision as their way to ensure that females (which should include Caster and Francine) can remain competitive.

Edited by Bam1, 02 May 2019 - 08:08 AM.


#3 Coffeegirl

Posted 02 May 2019 - 08:22 AM

I agree with the ruling.  

Testosterone is a banned substance in athletics because it is an advantage to the athlete.

Other athletes aren’t able to legally increase their levels to match Caster and Francine, so it does give them an unfair advantage .

And as Bam1 said, with more males identifying as females, the association needs to have rulings in place that are as fair as possible.

Otherwise the association will have athletes claiming they should be allowed to increase their levels to equal each other, and that’s a slippery slope into allowing other drugs.

#4 Sincerely

Posted 02 May 2019 - 08:24 AM

View PostBam1, on 02 May 2019 - 08:06 AM, said:

It is very unfair, women with naturally occurring testosterone should not be an issue, most elite athletes have some physical trait that sets them apart.

But we are coming to a time where males who self identify as women are expected to be allowed to compete in female competitions and it looks like the associations have this in mind with this decision as their way to ensure that females (which should include Caster and Francine) can remain competitive.

Yes, I hesitate about commenting on the second point, but on the first point, to me she is without contention a female and her testosterone levels are natural. Testosterone shouldn't be thought of as a male hormone. Normal women secrete testosterone and as you say, she happens to have a physical trait that gives her a natural advantage, but so do most elite athletes. I suspect a number of elite female athletes have testosterone levels well above the average female distribution and it would be terrible if officials start defining an upper threshold above which women must take suppressants (I'm actually horrified that someone has to take suppressants to compete in sports when the whole intent of sports is that it should be a drug free environment).

Edit: The side effects of anti-androgens include osteoporosis and breast changes. What if an athlete with a genetic predisposition were forced to take the drug & developed breast cancer...

Edited by Sincerely, 02 May 2019 - 08:41 AM.


#5 Cimbom

Posted 02 May 2019 - 08:29 AM

I bet if she was white it wouldn't be an issue. It mainly seems to be black women athletes who have their femininity bought into question.

I'm not in favour of segregation in sports and this is another example of why it doesn't make sense. I'm not interested in getting into another debate about it as I said all I intend to in the other thread on this topic so I'll just leave it at that. I hope there's still a way for her to return to competing without being forced to medicate herself.

#6 casime

Posted 02 May 2019 - 08:47 AM

I am getting splinters in my bum from sitting on the fence with this one.

On one hand, I can see that she is an innocent victim in all of this, and a quirk of nature has put her in a very difficult position.  On the other hand, I think that it's changed the playing field for athletics, and I'd certainly hate to be wanting to be involved in elite sport and having to come up against someone with testosterone levels well above the average female levels.  There can be no denying that she has, however inadvertently, been given one heck of a (natural) advantage.

But I can also see that the sport governing bodies are concerned about it opening doors to allow self identified females into female sports.  This is something I am completely against, and will never believe should be allowed.  Have your own 'trans' category if you must, but never competing in women's sports.

But Caster is just damned unlucky to be caught up in all of this.  I think that allowing her to reduce her testosterone to an average female level probably seems the best option for the controlling bodies at the moment with the amount of gender discussion around.

#7 Sincerely

Posted 02 May 2019 - 08:58 AM

View PostCimbom, on 02 May 2019 - 08:29 AM, said:

I bet if she was white it wouldn't be an issue. It mainly seems to be black women athletes who have their femininity bought into question.

There are definite genetic differences between ethnic populations, but no one seems to have any issue with the fact that the vast majority of male sprint champions are black, so similar differences in females should not be unexpected.

I wonder if they would ever make a male elite athlete with very abnormally high testosterone levels take suppressants (of course I don't think they should, so similarly I don't think a female athlete ever should).

#8 JinksNewton

Posted 02 May 2019 - 09:57 AM

This quoted tweet says it all for me.

"Michael Phelps is seen as a natural talent because his body naturally produces less than half the lactic acid of his opponents, but Caster Semenya is being barred from international athletics for being a black woman with a high testosterone level"


(For the record, if you don't think someone like Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps are helped along because their genetics are a bit quirky, you haven't been paying attention)

#9 purplekitty

Posted 02 May 2019 - 11:47 AM

I have enormous sympathy for CS.

My questions and I don't know the answer but if they allow her to compete with elevated testosterone levels how will they police others who may use androgens.

Is the technology available to differentiate between natural testosterone and administered.

We know that in the past countries had whole programs from a young age of medicated athletes.
I dont believe the world has changed,It is in fact worse.

#10 RichardParker

Posted 02 May 2019 - 12:21 PM

From the article:

"Key to this aspect of the argument are testosterone levels. The IAAF says women who have testosterone levels of over five nanomoles per litre of blood (nmol/l) have a significant performance advantage - and are outliers amongst the overall population of women. In other words, they are not representative of women generally, and this undermines the concept of women's sport."

I really don't understand this argument.  They accept she's a woman, but one aspect of her body is an outlier for the overall population of women.  

Isn't that the case with any kind of competitive anything?  Anyone who is competing at an international level (whether in sports, academics etc) is a statistical outlier amongst the overall population.  

And I don't understand the floodgates argument - a men self-identifying as a woman is not the same as a woman who has aspects of her body which are statistically uncommon amongst the general population of women.  Sounds like they're just using that as an excuse.

And this bit:  IAAF president Lord Sebastian Coe told Australia's Daily Telegraph newspaper: "The reason we have gender classification is because if you didn't then no woman would ever win another title, or another medal, or break another record in our sport."

is not really true - Semenya's advantage is unusual.  She's not going to compete forever.  She might be the greatest at the moment, but she'll retire at some point and other women, with other physiological advantages will be winning.

Are we going to test women's testosterone levels now before allowing them to play all sports?  Weird.

Edited by RichardParker, 02 May 2019 - 12:25 PM.


#11 born.a.girl

Posted 02 May 2019 - 12:42 PM

View PostJinksNewton, on 02 May 2019 - 09:57 AM, said:

This quoted tweet says it all for me.

"Michael Phelps is seen as a natural talent because his body naturally produces less than half the lactic acid of his opponents, but Caster Semenya is being barred from international athletics for being a black woman with a high testosterone level"


(For the record, if you don't think someone like Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps are helped along because their genetics are a bit quirky, you haven't been paying attention)

Very true.  As one of The Guardian articles points out though, we don't have categories for people with high lactic acid, but we DO have a category for people with (relatively) low testosterone, and it's a category protected for women.  It's why transgender athletes in specified areas are required to get their testosterone below a certain level.

Imagining this has nothing to do with transgender issues is ignoring the elephant in the room.  If Caster doesn't have to show those levels, then why should transgender athletes?

For the record, I'm horrified for her that her medical details, something most of us are able to keep private, are on display for the world.   If she had decided to take up running well after discovering her endocrine advantage, for the sole reason of taking advantage of the rules as they were, I might not be so horrified.   Finding out you are DSD in the eyes of the world makes me feel sick.

#12 purplekitty

Posted 02 May 2019 - 12:42 PM

The decision is about future repercussions for sport rather than one person IMO.

Andy Lewis@lecanardnoir

The gulf between elite male and female sport is huge. "Just in the single year 2017, Olympic, World, and U.S. Champion Tori Bowie's 100 meters lifetime best of 10.78 was beaten 15,000 times by men and boys.” Yes, boys. Equity demands sport is sex segregated.

#13 RichardParker

Posted 02 May 2019 - 12:48 PM

View Postborn.a.girl, on 02 May 2019 - 12:42 PM, said:



Imagining this has nothing to do with transgender issues is ignoring the elephant in the room.  If Caster doesn't have to show those levels, then why should transgender athletes?


Yeah but... they’re transgender. She’s not- she’s a woman with high testosterone.  

I think they’re using the transgender issue as an excuse to exclude her.

#14 born.a.girl

Posted 02 May 2019 - 12:59 PM

View PostRichardParker, on 02 May 2019 - 12:48 PM, said:

Yeah but... they’re transgender. She’s not- she’s a woman with high testosterone.  

I think they’re using the transgender issue as an excuse to exclude her.


They may well be, they may just be covering their own backs in case transgender people argue (and I can see their point) that if testosterone is not the deciding factor, then what
IS the deciding factor that allows someone to run in the women's?`


When we say transgender women are different, how?  In terms of physical attributes, with DSD they may well argue that they fit 'better' into the women's category than she does.


I'm not arguing for or against, I'm just saying that I can well see the argument transgender athletes could use.

#15 JinksNewton

Posted 02 May 2019 - 01:02 PM

Also interesting that pretty much every athlete I saw protesting about her and refusing to congratulate her was white (note, she also won against black women as well, they just weren't the ones getting snakey)  I'd love to see if she got the same treatment if her skin colour was different.
She's not even an all time best athlete. That's not to say she isn't winning, just that she's not up against a particularly amazing field and hasn't broken any records as far as I'm aware....there are other female athletes who (if they were currently competing) could put her into second place, which makes the whole thing seem even more mean spirited.

#16 RichardParker

Posted 02 May 2019 - 01:04 PM

And we’re back to the “what makes a woman” question again.

Maybe we should be asking men to define their gender- they’re the deviation from the norm, not us.

#17 blimkybill

Posted 02 May 2019 - 01:05 PM

View PostRichardParker, on 02 May 2019 - 12:48 PM, said:



Yeah but... they’re transgender. She’s not- she’s a woman with high testosterone.  

I think they’re using the transgender issue as an excuse to exclude her.
She's a woman with an intersex condition,  and this condition means she probably has internal testes which produce those male like levels of testosterone. I don't know for sure but she probably has XY chromosomes too.
I guess part of the issue is how do you define women. To many people,  transgender women are just as much women as any other woman. But by other definitions,  neither transgender women nor women like Caster are women.
I have fence sitting splinters too.

#18 purplekitty

Posted 02 May 2019 - 01:22 PM

View Postblimkybill, on 02 May 2019 - 01:05 PM, said:

She's a woman with an intersex condition,  and this condition means she probably has internal testes which produce those male like levels of testosterone. I don't know for sure but she probably has XY chromosomes too.
I guess part of the issue is how do you define women. To many people,  transgender women are just as much women as any other woman. But by other definitions,  neither transgender women nor women like Caster are women.
I have fence sitting splinters too.
It has been said she is 46 XY DSD.

https://www.outsideo...semenya-verdict

#19 born.a.girl

Posted 02 May 2019 - 01:22 PM

View Postblimkybill, on 02 May 2019 - 01:05 PM, said:

She's a woman with an intersex condition,  and this condition means she probably has internal testes which produce those male like levels of testosterone. I don't know for sure but she probably has XY chromosomes too.
I guess part of the issue is how do you define women. To many people,  transgender women are just as much women as any other woman. But by other definitions,  neither transgender women nor women like Caster are women.
I have fence sitting splinters too.

thankyou, you explained it much better than I did.

How do we protect everyone's rights?  And by which definition are transgender women not women?  By which definition are intersex people women or men?

Likewise on the splinters.

I wish for her that she'd been born in a different time, when transgender issues in sport were not also high on the agenda.

#20 JinksNewton

Posted 02 May 2019 - 01:31 PM

View PostRichardParker, on 02 May 2019 - 01:04 PM, said:

And we’re back to the “what makes a woman” question again.

Maybe we should be asking men to define their gender- they’re the deviation from the norm, not us.
All I keep thinking is the women saying this is to protect women while at the same time shutting Caster out...."but it's for the greater good!" Doesn't help her much.

It's the same impulse that leads to androgynous or butch women getting interrogated when they're in the women's toilets (yeah, I know cis-women this has happened to). Better fit into that mould!

It's protecting women, sure. As long as they're the right kind.

No, I don't particularly feel like transwomen should compete in high level women's sport. But throwing Caster under the bus is revolting.

#21 born.a.girl

Posted 02 May 2019 - 01:58 PM

View PostJinksNewton, on 02 May 2019 - 01:31 PM, said:

All I keep thinking is the women saying this is to protect women while at the same time shutting Caster out...."but it's for the greater good!" Doesn't help her much.

It's the same impulse that leads to androgynous or butch women getting interrogated when they're in the women's toilets (yeah, I know cis-women this has happened to). Better fit into that mould!

It's protecting women, sure. As long as they're the right kind.

No, I don't particularly feel like transwomen should compete in high level women's sport. But throwing Caster under the bus is revolting.


Whereas I can't separate how you decide who should compete in the protected women's category.  Would you have separate criteria for transgender and intersex women?  Genuine question, because I can't see that being possible 'just because we said so'.

Emotional language won't solve this: 'the right kind' might also be the ones who don't fit 'the other category', in the eyes of many.

If we're throwing Caster under a bus, then as far as I can see we're doing the same to transgender women.


How DO you decide who fits into this protected category?

Again, genuine question.

I haven't seen anyone suggest anything.

#22 CallMeFeral

Posted 02 May 2019 - 02:15 PM

View PostSincerely, on 02 May 2019 - 08:24 AM, said:

Edit: The side effects of anti-androgens include osteoporosis and breast changes. What if an athlete with a genetic predisposition were forced to take the drug & developed breast cancer...

To be fair she's not being 'forced' to take the drug. It's a condition of her competing, but that's a little different.

View Postpurplekitty, on 02 May 2019 - 01:22 PM, said:

It has been said she is 46 XY DSD. https://www.outsideo...semenya-verdict

Whoa. Really.
So chromosomally she's male, testosterone-ly she's male, gonadically she is reported as being more on the male side (but internally, so would look approximately female in that area) - that makes things incredibly complex.

#23 CallMeFeral

Posted 02 May 2019 - 04:12 PM

So I went to read the official statement (I think that's what I found)
https://www.tas-cas....AF_decision.pdf

"The DSD covered by the Regulations are limited to athletes with “46 XY DSD” – i.e. conditions where the affected individual has XY chromosomes. Accordingly, individuals with XX chromosomes are not subject to any restrictions or eligibility conditions under the DSD Regulations.

Athletes with 46 XY DSD have testosterone levels well into the male range (7.7 to 29.4 nmol/L; normal female range being below 2 nmol/L). The DSD Regulations require athletes with 46 XY DSD with a natural testosterone level over 5 nmol/L, and who experience a “material androgenizing effect” from that enhanced testosterone level, to reduce their natural testosterone level to below 5 nmol/L, and to maintain that reduced level for a continuous period of at least six months in order to be eligible to compete in a Restricted Event. Such reduction can be achieved, according to the IAAF evidence, by the use of normal oral contraceptives."

So they are basically saying if you are chromosomally male AND have testosterone higher than is usual for females AND are noticeably male in physique, then you need to take the equivalent of the normal oral contraceptives that millions of women take, to bring it down. That is a lot different to what I had originally imagined the finding to say.

#24 RichardParker

Posted 02 May 2019 - 05:21 PM

Yes, that’s a very different situation.

#25 Grassyrat

Posted 02 May 2019 - 05:25 PM

View Postblimkybill, on 02 May 2019 - 01:05 PM, said:


She's a woman with an intersex condition,  and this condition means she probably has internal testes which produce those male like levels of testosterone. I don't know for sure but she probably has XY chromosomes too.
I guess part of the issue is how do you define women. To many people,  transgender women are just as much women as any other woman. But by other definitions,  neither transgender women nor women like Caster are women.
I have fence sitting splinters too.

She's actually a hermaphrodite and does not have a womb or ovaries, but has internal testes. Her sex chromosomes are XXY so therefore by definition isn't a "true female". There's a reason she wins..... that Y chromosome and those testes secreting testosterone. A genetically unfair advantage




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