With the 2012 Summer Olympics set to open tomorrow, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) faces a new scandal over its gender testing.
The gender verification policy is designed to determine whether intersex athletes should compete as women or men.
Intersex people may quite naturally produce higher levels of male or female than average for their identified gender.
The new rule says women with levels of testosterone naturally equal to that of a man will be barred from competing with other women. But the IOC doesn’t specify a normal level of hormones would be, leaving it up to a panel of three experts who can disqualify female athletes if they don’t match expectations.
The rules also demand that national Olympic bodies ‘actively investigate any perceived deviation in sex characteristics’ before sending athletes to the games.
International LGBTI digital campaign organization AllOut.org says the policy is too invasive.
They are demanding Olympics President Jacques Rogge reverse it immediately – before the games open tomorrow (27 July).
‘Biology and humans are much more diverse than we would ever guess – what makes someone a man or a woman can’t be identified in a single test or using a single measurement,’ said Andre Banks, director of AllOut.org.
‘The new rule is degrading and humiliating to athletes who’ve worked for years and overcome tremendous obstacles in order to give everything for their sport and country.
‘We don’t ban people from becoming basketball players for being taller than average, or weightlifters for being stronger than average. Athletes are punished for cheating – and the International Olympic Committee already has a battery of tests to maintain the integrity of the Olympic Games.’
The new rules come after a 2009 incident when Caster Semenya, a South African runner was forced by another body, the International Association of Athletics Federations, to undergo 11 months of invasive gender testing after she was deemed too fast and too muscular to be a real woman.
Banks said: ‘The committee already has strict standards and a battery of tests to identify cheaters – this rule is something different. The IOC forces doctors to act as “gender police,” and if they don’t they could face sanctions.
‘It’s an invasion of privacy, it violates medical ethics, and it breeds an environment where if women are too good, they are suspected of cheating. That is the opposite of the Olympic spirit.’