Ethics Alarms first mentioned female runner Caster Semenya in this essay , when the international sports community was debating the South African track champion’s fitness for competition. Caster, depending on who you believe, is either a woman, intersex, a woman with freakishly high levels of testosterone in her body, or a man who identifies as a woman. What is undeniable is that she is faster than most women, and maybe all of them, and her unique physical make-up, whatever you want to call it, gives her an advantage. Since the last Olympics, Caster has been forced to take drugs that inhibited her body’s production of testosterone.Then, in July 2015 , the Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport overturned the 2011 IAAF regulations that restricted testosterone levels in female athletes. They also suspended hyperandrogenism regulations for two years. Now Semenya will be able to compete as she is naturally, and because she will, she is widely expected to smoke the competition.
Is it fair to let her run? Is it fair not to let her run? After this year of controversy and confusion over gender, with boys and men “identifying as women” and transgender discrimination laws roiling the culture wars, this is a perfect time for an intersex champion. Then, presumably, all hell will break loose. A sports scientist tells The Guardian,
“I’m actually dreading the Olympics. People only want to hear a good story so when Semenya wins gold the South African media will go crazy. If she breaks the world record, which I think she will, it’ll be even crazier. You can lie and say: ‘Happy days. Let’s celebrate our golden girl’ – which the politicians and media want. Or you can be honest and principled and say: ‘Actually, there are many things we need to address.’ That’s very unpopular”
Society and sports have reached the point the ethical solution is obvious and unavoidable, and, unfortunately, brutal. If society is accepting the fact that a binary gender distribution is a myth, and there may be seven, ten, or dozens of gender variations along a spectrum, then integrity and consistency—and fairness—demands that gender distinctions in sport be eliminated as arbitrary. Continue reading