Too male for womens sports?

Dutee Chand has accumulated more accomplishments than most of us. She is a professional sprinter from India, the nation’s junior national champion in the 100-meter dash and the first Indian to reach the finals of a global athletics event. She is also 18 years old – younger than many Oles. Imagine what it would be like to have all those achievements before you became a legal adult. Take a moment to think about how happy and proud you would be. Unfortunately, Dutee Chand is having a hard time feeling happy or proud, despite her accomplishments.

After rumors about her masculine build began circulating in the athletic world, Chand was forced to undergo genetic testing. These tests revealed that she has hyperandrogenism, which means that she naturally possesses an excessive amount of testosterone in her body. Her testosterone levels are high enough for the International Association of Athletics Federations IAAF to consider her a male. Chand was declared unable to compete against women unless she takes drugs to suppress her testosterone or has surgery to limit her hormone output. Situations similar to Chand’s have occurred before, but athletes generally put a halt to their athletic careers or alter their bodies to continue competing. Chand refuses to do either.

Those who uphold this rule believe that Chand’s excess testosterone gives her an unfair advantage against her competitors. It is true that testosterone can increase strength and muscle mass, but I do not think that Chand should be barred from competition because of her extra hormones. First of all, who decides how much testosterone is too much testosterone? The IAFF and International Olympics Committee IOC have decided for themselves what a sufficient testosterone level is to be considered male, a measure that is likely arbitrary. There are many women competing in athletic events with higher testosterone than the average female that we do not hear about because their hormones do not reach this “male” level. Can you say that these women and their hormones have an unfair advantage? Should all female athletes with testosterone levels well above average be excluded from competition? Nobody is calling for this happen, so I do not understand why we are calling out one athlete in particular.

On a deeper level, this issue resonates with those who hear about it because of the question it raises about identity. By telling her to either quit using her gift or to change herself using medical procedures that can have adverse side effects, a large governing organization is telling Chand she is not enough of a woman to compete in women’s athletic events. This is a deeply hurtful statement. It forces female athletes to fit a notion of femininity that is dismissive to many who cannot be easily categorized, like Dutee Chand, and promotes looking and acting like “a typical girl” over performance. Chand is a woman, and she has identified as one all of her life; experiencing invasive medical procedures and being told that her identity is wrong is a terrible experience nobody should have to go through. She is being shamed for a thing she cannot control. That is what is truly wrong here.

It is a confusing issue with lots of implications for athletes with these genetic anomalies, but most of the people bickering about this issue online or off will never be affected by the IAFF rule either way. There is one person here who really matters, and that is Dutee Chand. Remove the politics. What is left is a young woman whose aspirations have been crushed overnight. Chand has experienced dehumanization and humiliation because of this ordeal, and she has every right to fight against the terrible choices currently presented to her. I, for one, cannot wait to see her compete again.

Audrey Walker ’18 walker1@stolaf.edu is from Mountain Grove, Mo. Her major is undecided.

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