In ruling against Olympic gold medalist Caster Semenya, the highest court in international sports effectively imposed an exacting definition of who should be considered male or female based on a single factor — testosterone levels. The Wednesday decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport has prompted an outcry from human rights groups and medical researchers who call the idea “unscientific” and say it sets a dangerous precedent for using biological measures to justify discrimination.
Semenya — a South African national who is one of the world’s fastest female runners — is believed to have hyperandrogenismin which the body naturally produces levels of hormones that are more typical of men. She has protested a 2018 rule from the International Association of Athletics Federations as discrimination because it requires female athletes with testosterone output higher than a certain cutoff to take medications to suppress levels of the hormone to continue competing.
The Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport said Wednesday that female track athletes with elevated testosterone won’t be able to compete at events such as the Olympics unless they take medications to suppress those levels.
The “normal” female range, as defined by the IAAF, is below 2 nanomole per liter in the blood, and the normal male range is 7.7 to 29.4 nanomole per liter. In a rule issued in 2018, the IAAF decreed that women who have levels above 5 nanomole per liter take measures to reduce that level to below 5 nanomole per liter through the use of medications such as oral contraceptives to continue competing.
But Justin Garcia, research director of Indiana University’s Kinsey Institute, which focuses on gender and sexuality, said gender cannot be that easily defined. Both men and women produce testosterone, and the typical man produces more than the typical woman. But there is huge variation among individuals, he said, with a significant percentage of women having higher levels than many men. Some studies have shown, for example, that women who seek out risky careers such as finance are more likely to have elevated testosterone levels. Read more via Washington Post