Sex Verification in Sport

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(From OII)

The science and management of sex verification in sport.

R Tucker, M Collins, South African Journal of Sports Medicine. ISSN: 1015-5163

Abstract:

http://ajol.info/index.php/sasma/article/view/50506/0

The verification of gender eligibility in sporting competition poses a biological and management challenge for sports science and medicine, as well as for sporting authorities. It has been established that in most sporting events, the strength and power advantage possessed by males as a result of the virilising action of hormones such as testosterone produce significant advantages in performance. For this reason, males and females compete largely in separate gender categories.

Controversies arise as a result of intersex conditions, where the classification of individuals into male or female is complex. The present review provides the historical context to the debate, identifying the origins of gender verification as a means to deter cheating. It describes how various testing methods have been attempted, including physical examinations of genitalia, molecular techniques including genetic screening, and complex multidisciplinary approaches including endocrinological, genetic and gynaecological examination. To date, none appear to have provided a satisfactory resolution to the problem, and appear instead to have unfairly discriminated against individuals as a result of inappropriate application of testing results.

Sporting authorities have formulated position stands for the management of such cases, but there is not absolute agreement between them and little evidence to support whether intersex individuals should or should not be allowed to compete in female categories.

Full Text: PDF
http://ajol.info/index.php/sasma/article/viewFile/50506/39186

Editorial Comment:

This article highlights the problems sports officials create for themselves when they attempt to determine an athlete’s sex from a binary perspective.

The mythical Adam and Eve model of biological sex comes crashing down in the face of medicine’s inability to develop a definitive method of sex determination.

It is time sports bodies such as the IOC and the IAAF accepted that natural variations in biological sex are no different than variations in race, ethnicity or for that matter, height or hair colour.

In some spheres of human endeavour, some individuals have natural advantages over others. Natural advantage plus hard work and training create winners. Its called competition and its what sporting events are for and why athletes participate. We think Administrators should allow them get on with it, finding other ways to sniff out drugs cheats, without destroying the lives of innocent athletes.

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