Opening Ceremony London 2012 Olympics: IOC Testosterone Test is Humiliating for Women


How masculine can a woman be before it’s beyond all measures? How masculine can a woman be before being barred from competing with other women in sports?

Today is the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics in London. But along with the enthusiasm, the Olympic Committee created a bit of commotion too. The IOC announced a new -- and questionable -- gender verification policy. The rule says women with higher levels of testosterone and naturally equal to that of a man will be barred from competing with other women. Unfortunately, the IOC doesn’t specify a normal level of hormones. The gender verification is also designed to determine whether intersex athletes should compete as women or men.

There is no objective way to draw a bright line between male and female. The term “sex” is a biological one with a strict biological meaning. “Sex” is a genetic marker indicating the nature of the chromosomes in your body. 

Simultaneously, too little or too much testosterone may lead to some distinctions in the human’s body. Too much testosterone in a female may lead to masculinization. Testosterone develops muscular frames, powerful muscles and deep voice. It is possible for a person to be genetically male or female and yet for complex hormonal reasons show only partial male or female bodily characteristics. 

Even though testosterone levels are markedly different for men and women, the levels vary depending on the time of day, life, social status and training. There are probably athletes that dope themselves with testosterone to improve their performance by increasing muscle size and strength. But no one can predict how well the athlete will do and how well trained are his or her opponents.  

There is no evidence that successful athletes have higher testosterone levels than less successful ones. And that is way the new rule is degrading to athletes who have worked for years and who are clearly women. Questioning the sex of a woman is more humiliating than protective. It is discriminatory. Under the new policy, shouldn’t men be tested as well? They also have greatly varying testosterone levels that affect their performance and they could use the hormone as a natural doping. 

The new policy has a lot of blunders. No one can understand what the test is protecting women from. Having higher levels of testosterone doesn’t mean you are a superwoman or you have the ability to fly or to move objects with your gaze. 

Wanting to test a woman with natural higher hormone levels or with hyperandrogenism is disgraceful. All these women have not cheated. There is no reason to disqualify women whose bodies produce curtain kind ingredients. 

If an athlete is found to have high testosterone levels and consequently barred from competing that won’t prevent unfair competition. Quite the contrary, it will create iniquitous competition. Because stopping someone from pursuing his or her dreams after overcoming tremendous obstacles, just because his or her body has more hormones, is a hit below the belt. 

Neither Caster Semenya nor the future victims of the new policy deceived or are going to deceive anyone. Everyone that decided to dedicate his life to sports has the rights to make his or her wishes and dreams a reality, and the Olympic Committee should not the one who can stop him or her from reaching them.