Sometimes really, really good things happen
In a decision that will reverberate across international athletics, and the wider sporting landscape, the runner Dutee Chand has overturned the IAAF regulations governing female athletes competing in elite athletics, solely on the basis of arbitrary blood testosterone levels.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport announced earlier today the suspension of the controversial hyperandrogenism regulations that had led to Dutee Chand being suddenly withdrawn from the Indian team to compete at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. There was never any question of Dutee blood doping. What the case highlighted was the entirely arbitrary decision to enforce measurements that had no grounding in any evidential basis. The rules were intended to replace the anomalous segregation of athletes on the grounds of their genetics, a regulation that itself was dropped in the late 1990’s because clinicians had become quite well aware that some people did not conform to the binary XX/Xy binary, and that athletes were being barred for entirely anomalous reasons that had no bearing on their performance. Instead the rules only served to throw further light on how little distinction there is between men and women biologically.
Research commissioned by the IAAF in an attempt to provide support evidence for the regulations stumbled when the researchers failed to find an empirical link between performance and blood testosterone levels. Instead the IAAF insisted on applying the medical protocols enacted on intersex infants and young children, on adult female athletes. Four athletes were caught in this net during the London 2012 Olympics. They were forced to undergo medically un-necessary clitoral surgeries, and other interventions as a condition of being permitted to continue competing.
The hyperandrogenism regulations were drawn up in the wake of Caster Semenya’s astonishing debut performances, and clamours from some within athletics that something be done to draw boundaries about who is, or is not an acceptable woman. The Dutee Chand case has illustrated the artificiality of regulations that even some clinicians could not agree were appropriate.
Dutee Chand resolutely refused to accede to demands that she undergo medically un-necessary interventions to modulate her hormone levels. Dutee rightly claimed that as an elite athlete they had no health issues as a consequence of their natural blood testosterone levels, and found highly articulate allies in Dr. Payoshni Mitra, and Katrina Karkazis to help them fight their case. They took up Dutee’s cause, and along the way persuaded the Sports Authority of India to lift their adoption of these deeply discriminatory regulations. They have now all been completely vindicated. This adjudication will likely have deep repercussions in all international sports.
OII-UK extends it’s warmest congratulations to Dutee Chand, Dr Payoshni Mitra and Katrina Karkazis for taking the fight to the IAAF and winning their case.