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Promoting human rights and equality for all intersex people through arts, education and action.

“Reexamining Rationales of “Fairness”: An Athlete and Insider’s Perspective on the New Policies on Hyper­androgenism in Elite Female Athletes”

OII global chair, Hida Viloria, and former Olympic athlete Maria Jose Martínez-Patino write in The American Journal of Bioethics on proposed policies by the International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF) and the IOC relating to hyperandrogenism in women athletes (but not men athletes):

The new policies are informed not by scientific evidence, but by age-old cultural assertions that those who do not conform to social gender roles are not “real” women or men. As a representative for people with intersex traits (which can include hyperandrogenism), I (H. Viloria) argued that the proposed policies were discriminatory, as they target only masculine looking women, despite the lack of evidence of their advantage. Some agreed, while some countered that Semenya had been targeted due to her speed, not her physical appearance. However, discussion that followed included that an athlete who is currently faster than Semenya had not been accused (Viloria 2011). An Internet search revealing that she has long hair and presents as typically female confirmed my assertion that physical appearance compels testing.

The authors conclude:

It is evident that the new policies do not ensure or address fairness for all. Rather, they were devised to ease social discomfort and appease prejudicial complaints against the women they target. The fact that the IAAF and IOC prioritized these complaints over human rights was enabled by the fact that legal experts in Lausanne confirmed that women with hyperandrogenism lack legal protections.

Legalities notwithstanding, it is unethical to allow prejudice to inform policymaking. Prior policies produced irrevocable psychological harm, and efforts to determine who is “female enough” are discriminatory and scientifically unsound. In addition, there is no evidence that the treatments athletes who are deemed ineligible will be required to undergo in order to compete will not be harmful to their health.