In July, Olympic hopeful Dutee Chand, 18, was abruptly pulled from the track and field roster of India’s national team after successfully training for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland. The champion sprinter was then tested for hyperandrogenism, a condition that the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) describes as “the excessive production of androgens (testosterone).” The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) banned Chand from the competition when the results confirmed she had high levels of naturally occurring testosterone.
Her hormonal profile was completely natural; she had not been doping. Yet Chand was told that she could not compete until her testosterone levels were reduced to a level less than 10 nanomoles of testosterone per liter of blood, or below what the IAAF considers the male range. Apparently, this is higher than the range exhibited by most women and lower than that of most men. This could be achieved with hormone suppression therapy or with surgical intervention. But Chand has refused medical interference and is now appealing her ban, insisting there is nothing wrong with her body.
Last month Chand, India’s 100-meter champion in the 18-and-under category, filed an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which acts as a Supreme Court in the sports world. Regardless of the outcome, the court’s decision will shape the future of elite sports for some time to come. In addition to overturning the AFI’s decision, Chand seeks to have the hyperadrogenism rules invalidated. If the CAS upholds the appeal, the fledgling conversation about sex and science in sport will continue among consultants and governing bodies. However, if her appeal is denied, female athletes will have to perform under artificial restrictions, reducing women’s sports from legitimate competitions to mere exhibitions.
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