Cheers to testosterone
By challenging the AFI’s decision, Dutee Chand has become more than an athlete
The Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sports has produced a fine document outlining its latest award, upholding the appeal filed by athlete Dutee Chand against the Athletic Federation of India’s (AFI’s) order declaring her ineligible to compete in national or international sports.
In August 2014, the AFI grounded Chand on the basis of the International Association of Athletic Federations’ (Iaaf’s) hyperandrogenism regulations; she was asked to undergo medical tests to prove she could compete as a woman.
We have told Dutee Chand’s story, and have followed it up till this week’s verdict. It is one of the Mint stories that got the SOPA (Society of Publishers in Asia) Awards for editorial excellence in South Asia. Our cover story, “Why Dutee Chand Can Change Sports”, from November 2014 was about heroism and nerve, about sport, about Indian sport, about girls who don’t cry.
Chand has changed sports in a big way. The outrage following the gratuitous media scrutiny of the sexuality of South African athlete Caster Semenya in 2009 changed little—testosterone tests, essentially just another name for gender tests, continued. For the first time since the 1940s, this verdict has opened up the possibility, at least for the next two years, of there being no gender tests at all.
By challenging the AFI’s decision, Chand has become more than an athlete. Her questions about gender identity and rights, and the arbitration committee’s conclusions, shatter some of our everyday, narrow definitions of “male” and “female”. Estrogen, as opposed to testosterone, petite as opposed to hefty, macho as opposed to feminine. The arbitrators outline the case, and how Chand managed to challenge these notions, step by step in their order.
In September, she wrote a letter to the AFI urging them to reconsider its decision to stop her from competing. I quote a part of it:
“I was born a woman, reared up as a woman, I identify as a woman and I believe I should be allowed to compete with other women, many of whom are either taller than me or come from more privileged backgrounds, things that most certainly give them an edge over me....
I have spent nearly half of my life working hard to excel in athletics and to make my country proud. I hope I am allowed to continue to do so without feeling coerced to undergo medical intervention for participation as a woman.”
The arbitrators are convinced that “male” and “female” are part of a human continuum—they are present in varying degrees in all of us. They say it is not possible to set a static normal male range and normal female range for testosterone. Chand’s body produces more than the medically considered normal range for testosterone in women. One of the experts they consulted in the case said, “There is a great deal of mythology about the role of testosterone.”
The court of arbitration concluded: “Although athletic events are divided into discrete male and female categories, sex in humans is not binary. As it was put during the hearing, ‘Nature is not neat.’ There is no single determinant of sex.”
This is a neat theory. It urges us to look beyond the petite and the muscular. To understand testosterone, acknowledge its presence in us women, and also appreciate the fact that a man can have some oestrogen.
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