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IOC seeks to establish gender-testing centers for athletes

Ioc International Olympic Committee officials told the Associated Press today they are recommending the creation of special medical centers that would handle sex verification cases for athletes.

Following a conference with medical specialists in Miami, the IOC says it wants sports authorities around the world to establish guidelines to determine gender eligibility on a "case-by-case" basis.

The move comes in the wake of the case surrounding South African runner Caster Semenya, who was ordered to submit to gender tests after she won the 800 meters at the IAAF World Track and Field Championships last summer.

But the IOC says Semenya's case did not spur the recommendation.

"We did not discuss any particular case," IOC medical commission Chairman Arne Ljungqvist told the Associated Press. "We explored the science of all these matters. We established several important points bases on up-to-date science and global expertise. We now have the scientific bases for going further."

As proposed, health centers would seek to diagnose and treat athletes who have "disorders of sex development." Ljunqvist suggested that treatments such as surgery and hormone therapy could be used to help athletes remain eligible for competition.

The IOC says sports federations would ultimately be in charge of determining gender-specific guidelines for an athlete's eligibility. They would also have to determine whether an athlete can compete while undergoing gender diagnosis and treatment.

"The rule needs to allow for a case-by-case evaluation," Ljungqvist said.

IOC delegates said "pre-participation health examinations" would be the best way of diagnosing athletes with sex disorders. Some countries already require athletes to have health exams before competing.

The IOC dropped mandatory gender testing for the Olympics in 1999. It now relies on an on-site medical panel for gender-related issues at the Olympics.

Ljungqvist stressed that the recommendations made by the IOC are preliminary and that "this may require further discussions."

-- Austin Knoblauch

Photo: South Africa's Caster Semenya wins the women's 800-meter final at the IAAF World Track and Field Championships in Berlin on Aug. 19. Credit: Michael Sohn / Associated Press

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Comments (6)

This is really unfair. Are they going to assign allowable levels of every hormone and bodily measurement that might affect performance and then tell competitors they must manipulate those levels into some presumed "normal" range?

The New York Times pointed out that a Finnish family noted for olympic prowess in cross-country skiing was found to have a genetic "difference" that would allow for greater stamina. Should that family, or any person found to have a similar genetic difference be required to either not compete, or take drugs to lower their presumed advantage?

It really feels like this is about punishing someone who doesn't conform to presumed female requirements. She didn't manipulate her body; she's trained hard to maximize her genetic potential.

They are basically saying that they need to mutilate and drug people to let them compete on their business? This is one of the times i wish i was a billionaire, I would start my own unisex olimpics.

Why not just do plain old DNA? It is non invasive and has nothing to do with gender identity.

"Diagnose and treat"? People like Caster Semenya are not ill or injured. They may not be the standard XX and XY humans, but they are human, nonetheless. And in Semenya's case, a world-class athlete. I'm appalled at the IOC's ideas.

I'm not defending this policy at all. I actually want to address a reader comment about using DNA. An individual can have XY chromosomes, yet be anatomically female. It happens in about 1 in 3000 individuals. Intersex conditions are actually a gradient in the development of genitals. The default is female. Male development has to have the correct genes functioning and turned on at the right time.

So DNA testing can reveal that a person is XY but has female genitals. Which one should define gender? It's not an easy answer.

We are learning that the genetics behind gender and gender identity are not simple.

And no, I don't have a good answer. Except don't test. However people identify, just accept that. It seems like a small thing to worry about to me.

By this we can say that women are as equal as men.


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