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Jock Talk: Testosterone pseudoscience

by Roger Brigham

South African runner Caster Semenya
South African runner Caster Semenya  

Horrific indifference to the human condition has been a recent hallmark of decisions in elite international sports. Tournaments and events awarded to countries with crappy human rights records; sexually predatory coaches and trainers not only permitted, but enabled, in their quests for victims; racist and homophobic taunts by fans uttered with little to no backlash - elite sports have heaped it on unthinking for years.

Now, international track comes up with its most vicious and petty act to date.

Track and field's ruling body, International Association of Athletics Federations, has adopted a rule that is supposed to take effect in November that multiplies a ton of pseudoscience by a mound of super prejudice to justify essentially eliminating a lot of female runners from Asia and Africa to appease the coaches of a bunch of whiny Westerners.

The new rule would, in essence, force some runners to choose one of three options: 1) use medically unnecessary means (such as birth control pills or surgery) to drop their natural testosterone levels to considerably less than what nature gave them; 2) run with men rather than their fellow women; or 3) give up competing entirely.

So much for compassion and human dignity.

Let's back this train up and examine how we got here. For the most part, the men who run track and field are neither scientists nor women, but they spend a lot of time pretending they are. They've always had a hysterical fear of men pretending to be women in track and field events, and in past decades subjected many women to incredibly invasive genetic testing. Despite some strides toward enlightenment in more recent decades, they continue to be uncomfortable when dealing with transgender athletes and virtually swoon when their binary sensibilities are assaulted by intersex athletes who, having lived all of their lives as women and identifying as women, have the nerve to compete with other women.

The dodos who run IAAF previously tried banning such athletes, not because they were doing anything to cheat, but because their naturally occurring testosterone levels were on the high side. The IAAF decided those athletes needed to use suppressive means to lower their testosterone levels in order to compete but could cite no credible scientific evidence for their decision.

"I am unable to understand why I am asked to fix my body in a certain way simply for participation as a woman," Indian sprinter Dutee Chand said about the rule that temporarily banned her from competition in 2014 before she successfully challenged it.

IAAF was given a couple of years to present scientific evidence to support its rule, but last month instead came up with a new rule based on essentially the same crappy pseudoscience. Arguing that testosterone levels, like height, age, and strength, had an anecdotal correlation with results in some track and field events, IAAF arbitrarily decided that women with higher testosterone levels must make their testosterone levels lower in order to compete in international track events from 400 to 1,500 meters.

The tiny IAAF survey of results compared with testosterone levels indicated an impact on performance far below the level the court of arbitration had told IAAF it needed to demonstrate - and that correlation was not strongest in the distances the new rule would affect.

It is in this cherry picking of distances that the true racist agenda of the IAAF is revealed.

First off, we have the IAAF's paranoid belief that Asia and Africa are somehow cranking out intersex athletes to compete with white women.

"Athletics is a whole world sport, it's not purely the Caucasian sports," former IAAF medical director Stephane Bermon said in 2013. "We have a lot of people coming from Africa, Asia, and we have a lot of these cases coming from these countries."

Second, we have the distances currently being dominated by runner Caster Semenya, the South African who in recent years has been subjected to invasive gender testing.

When Semenya burst on the global scene in 2009, Pierre Weiss, general secretary of IAAF, said, "She is a woman, but maybe not 100 percent."

Amazingly, he still has his job.

Semenya is the world-class athlete the powers that be want to force out of the sport.

"The IAAF found something about her, and arbitrarily decided that was the difference between a woman and a man," Dennis Young wrote on www.deadspin.com. "She's black and 'breathtakingly butch' and from rural Africa, so her sport decided to spend nine years digging into her biology in an effort to find something, anything, to justify getting her off the track. None of those attempts have stuck yet, although this looks like it has the best shot. And no athlete in history has a more credible claim that the people who run her sport are simply out to get her."

Third, we have the race distances the new rule doesn't cover: specifically, the 100 and 200 meter sprints in which Chand competed when she challenged the IAAF in court. The new rule effectively ends her legal battle.

Well, screw that.

"I have offered Semenya my legal team if she needs," Chand said last week. "I have emailed her offering my support and help."

I'm sending the IAAF my thoughts and prayers as they try to figure their way out of this mess.

#sisterhood

Contact the columnist at jocktalkroger@yahoo.com.

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