Fact or Fiction: Intersex Track Athletes Now Required to Keep Their Testosterone Levels Down

Starting this May, athletes who want to compete in track events from 400m up to the mile, will be required to keep their testosterone levels below a prescribed amount for at least six months prior to competing. The rule was issued by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and will apply to famous runners like Caster Semenya.Semenya filed an appeal, but the Court of Arbitration for Sport denied Semenya’ appeal.

Image Source: timeslive.co.za

Semenya first drew attention in 2009 when she won gold in the 800 metres at the World Championships with the fastest time of the year. In November 2009 reports surfaced that Semenya’s medical test revealed male and female characteristics. The results were not made public.

Contrary to popular belief, Semenya is not transgender or transsexual. She was born with male XY chromosomes. In the XY-sex determination system, females have two of the same kind of sex chromosome (XX), while males have two different kinds of sex chromosomes (XY).

Image Source: slate.com

But she is also believed to have an intersex condition that causes her body to naturally produce testosterone at levels much higher than most women. However, other websites have reported that she has no ovaries, internal testes, no uterus, and very levels of testosterone.

What are disorders/differences of sex development (DSD)?

In people with DSD (some people the term “intersex”), their hormones, genes, reproductive organs may be a mix of male and female characteristics, which can lead to higher levels of testosterone. Testosterone increases muscle mass, strength and hemoglobin, which affects endurance in sports like running.

Pat from Saturday Night Live
Image Source: wikipedia.org

What do you think? Is XY chromosome the end of the story? Or should genetic males like Semenya be allowed to compete in women’s events if they also have female characteristics?