Thursday, August 27, 2009

Gender testing - why do it at all?

SHOOT: Because male hormones can produce an unfair advantage. That said, all athletes should be subjected to doping controls, but they should perhaps not be referred to as 'gender testing' .

The 2008 paper, in the Journal of the RSM, shows that the 1936 Berlin Olympics was the first arena in which gender became an issue. It arose in the bitter rivalry between Stella Walsh and Helen Stephens, both American sprinters. Walsh was even nicknamed Stella the Fella, and earned a reputation for isolating herself in the changing rooms. When Stephens won the 100m in world record-beating time, Walsh accused her publicly of being a man. Stephens' genitalia was duly inspected and found to be, externally at least, female. Ironically, it was Walsh who turned out to be not quite what she seemed, a fact that only came to light after she was killed in bank robbery in 1980. A post-mortem revealed ambiguous genitalia and abnormal sex chromosomes.

As such, compulsory gender verification seems unfair, humiliating and unproductive in the majority of situations."

So, given the sorry history of gender testing in sport, should we be doing it?

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