Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Not ready to thumbs up this

The Women's Sports Foundation posted this article from USA Today on its Facebook feed this morning. It has, as of this writing, one "like." It's about the International Association of Athletics Foundation (IAAF), the organization that governs track and field, and their decision to institute a policy about women with too much male hormone.
This announcement, made in South Korea where the next world championships will take place, is clearly a result of the Caster Semenya fiasco two year ago. Here are the new rules as explained in the article: Women with hyperandrogenism [overproduction of male homrones] will be eligible to compete in female competition if their androgen levels are below the men's range or, if within the male range, they have an androgen resistance which means they derive no competitive advantage.
Here's what I don't know too much about--the construction of these ranges. So I cannot comment on where these lines are drawn or even who is drawing them. I have been taught, however, to question the construction of normal--in both culture and science (because, of course, science is not separate from culture). Experts galore, I am sure, provided significant input into the rule change.
What initially gave me hope was the less invasive testing procedure. Now that there is a hormone range as part of the rules, testing would be easier. Take some blood. Get results. OK maybe blood would be taken more than once. And while the taking of fluids from athletes is indeed invasive, after reading what Semenya and others have been through in these comprehensive gender tests, it seems rather innocuous (putting aside for a moment that the reason behind testing was likely because someone(s) thinks an athlete is too masculine--which is not at all benign).
But it does not appear that these gender tests are over:
The IAAF said it has appointed a panel of international medical experts to review any hyperandrogenism cases. The panel will make recommendations on eligibility to the IAAF.
The process may include referring an athlete "for full examination and diagnosis with best medical practice" at one of six IAAF-approved specialist centers around the world.
Any female athlete who declines, fails or refuses to comply with the eligibility process will be ineligible to compete in women's events, the IAAF said.

New rules but old procedures? And compulsory ones at that. Suspect females are still going to be forced to undergo invasive exams at the hands of experts pre-approved by the IAAF. Doesn't seem like much has changed.

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