Start Submission

Reading: Too fast to be female? Unravelling the controversy over androgens in female elite athletes

Download

A- A+
Alt. Display

Life – Discussion Starters

Too fast to be female? Unravelling the controversy over androgens in female elite athletes

Author:

Lily Elinor Alys Scourfield

Cardiff University, GB
X close

Abstract

Told through the example of South African middle-distance runner Caster Semenya, this discussion starter examines the controversial area of gender in sport from a scientific viewpoint. Women have been segregated from men in most sporting disciplines for as long as they have been permitted to compete, but seated in a society only just beginning to delineate the concepts of sex and gender identity, consensus needs to be reached on how or if we should categorise elite athletes, whilst upholding the integrity and fairness of competitive sport. The parameters used to sort athletes into today’s binary gender categories have recently come under scrutiny in the cases of athletes with Differences of Sex Development (DSD). Semenya has elevated serum testosterone and her eligibility to continue competing and winning with females has now been brought into contention by the IAAF resulting in a legal battle. However, the scientific evidence on which the IAAF ruling is based is far from robust. Athletics, a sport tainted by a history of doping with anabolic steroids, is fighting to maintain values of fairness by aiming to govern the levels endogenous steroids permitted in competition. Semenya’s is a pertinent example of a wider issue which is of interest from a scientific, ethical, political, legal and social standpoint because of the complexity of hormone systems and the fact that circulating levels of hormone do not necessarily equate with actions of those hormones.  With confusing mainstream media coverage lacking consensus, the scientific community deserve clarity on the issue to allow us to engage in meaningful discussion and contribute to the debate.
How to Cite: Scourfield LEA. Too fast to be female? Unravelling the controversy over androgens in female elite athletes. The British Student Doctor Journal. 2020;4(2):30–7. DOI: http://doi.org/10.18573/bsdj.130
4
Views
4
Downloads
Published on 30 Jun 2020.
Peer Reviewed

Downloads

  • PDF (EN)