May 22, 2019
If you’re a female athlete, are you supposed to look like Miss Universe?
No, you’re not, but if you happened to be equally beautiful (at least by the standards of what is regarded as the beauty pageant of all beauty pageants) or lovelier than Catriona Gray, you can thank your lucky stars for your good fortune.
And, if you also happened to be the fastest 800 meter female runner over two recent Olympic Games, then you must be the chosen one by the gods and goddesses who rule even beyond the universe.
Caster Semenya of South Africa, however, would not even make it past the screening of any beauty contests, if we were to go by what pageant gurus decide as the measure of female pulchritude.
The International Association of Athletics Federations, governing body of world track and field or athletics, recently rejected Semenya’s challenge against IAAF’s rules regulating testosterone in female athletes.
The IAAF’s regulations compel “hyperandrogenic” athletes — those with “differences of sexual development” or DSD to “lower their testosterone levels if they wish to compete as women.”
“Testosterone is the primary male sex hormone and an anabolic steroid in male humans. It plays a key role in the development of male reproductive tissues such as testes and prostate, as well as promotion of secondary sexual characteristics such as increased muscle and bone mass, and the growth of body hair.”
The Semenya case brings back memories of the bigoted and sexist treatment (and the local media was part of it) of Asia’s former sprint queen Mona Sulaiman in the 1960s and, much later, of another promising runner Nancy Navalta.
Sulaiman and Navalta were perceived as not female enough by Philippine track and field honchos at the time when the two girls were making their “female” rivals eat their dust.
They never were able to deliver on their huge potential, opting for a graceful exit rather than suffering the humiliation of practically stripping at every news conference to prove that they had vaginas, not penises, and so much for profiling based on sex and looks (testosterone was not even in the picture 50 years ago, at least for Mona).
The good news for Semenya, 28, and the two runners who also made the 800 meter podium in Rio in 2016 — Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi and Margaret Wanbui of Kenya — was that the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a resolution in April this year describing the IAAF rules as “unnecessary, humiliating and harmful.”
So, what’s next? Shut the door on basketball players who have naturally high testosterone levels because they are too tall?
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