Verification of sex eligibility in athletics has created a management and biological challenge for sporting authorities over a long period. According to various reports, males contain power and strength advantage over the females due to the presence of various hormones like testosterone in their bodies that boosts their performance. This is the reason why males are separated from women in carrying out given competitions in sports. In the past, controversies have arisen in the categorization of individuals into male or female due to the presence of intersex conditions. Various methods that have been employed towards the determination of real sex of individuals include; physical observation of the genitalia, complex multidisciplinary methodologies like gynaecological examinations, molecular techniques like genetic screening and functional testosterone policy. However, up to date none of these methodologies that has solved the issue of sex verification to satisfactory. Some of these methods are rather considered to be discriminative against various individuals due to the inappropriateness that is incurred while handling sex verification cases.
Determination of sex
Sports authorities, for instance, the International Olympics Committee (IOC) and the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) usually expect the athletics competitions to be fair for every participant. However, there are individuals who are more advantaged and who deliberately engage in the female competitions thereby making the challenge unfair. This has attracted a lot of attention in the athletics games over the past, a fact that led to the introduction of sex verification among the female athletes in the early 1960s (Fausto-Sterling 27).
In the early years, sex determination was carried out in women through physical examinations whereby, they were expected to align before a given committee of experts. This was a very primitive and immoral way of carrying out the sex test as it undermined the personal rights concerning the privacy of the competitors. Due to increased pressure from various groups and athletes, the IOC adopted the sex chromatin test in the preceding years. This test involves the identification of Barr bodies in the cells extracted from the inner part of the participant’s cheek through microscopic examination. According to this test, in normal conditions a female should contain two X sex chromosomes whereas males contain one Y and one X chromosomes. The other X chromosome in a female is inactivated in the developmental stages to create Barr bodies in the cells’ nucleus. Therefore, the presence of Barr bodies in the cells could indicate that the cells were obtained from a female and absence of these bodies could indicate that the person tested was a male. This test worked out well up to the extent that there were cases of individuals with various disorders of sex development (DSDs)upon whom the method did not work out properly (Fausto-Sterling 64).
Considering Maria Patino’s case in 1988 Olympics, the IOC applied the chromosome test whereby it concluded that Patino was not a female although with the observable physical characteristics. Maria Patino, a Spain top athlete, forgot to carry along a doctor’s certificate that could prove that she was a woman as per the IOC requirements. Then she was subjected to a chromosome test that was followed by another test. According to the results, Patino’s cells contained a Y chromosome, and her labia contained testes. Also, Patino neither had ovaries nor the uterus. Therefore, according to the IOC’s female definition, Patino was not one and was barred from taking part in that Olympics. However, later on Patino filed a case and was reinstated into the Spain Squad.
Abnormal chromosomes are the key causative agents of disorders of sex development that in turn determine the sex of various individuals like for the case of Patino. For instance, individuals suffering from Turner’s syndrome whom contain only one X chromosomes takes the appearance of a woman and those with two X chromosomes and one Y chromosome (Klinefelter’s syndrome) who are males but infertile. Individuals with Klinefelter’s syndrome will be identified as female, and those with Turner’ssyndrome be identified as males in case the chromosome test is employed thereby challenging the effectiveness of the test. This eventually makes the process of sex verification to be a difficult agenda before various authorities (Fausto-Sterling 72).
Genetic screening of the female cells is another methodology that has been applied by the IOC in its intention to determine the sex of female athletes. This process involves carrying out of a PCR analysis that detects the sex-determining region Y gene (SRY) that is present in the Y chromosome of the males. This gene is thought to be essential during differentiation of internal foetal gonad into testes that handle the production of the male phenotype. Nevertheless, this method contains various restrictions in the sense that testis development requires other genes. Also, there are scenarios whereby individualswho contain XX sex chromosomes, thereby having no SRY gene contain testes. Although withits challenges the methodology of gene screening was used in the 1992 and 1996 Olympics games. According to reports, eight athletes tested positive SRY gene in the 1996 Olympics. They contained a condition by name α-5-reductase deficiency. This disorder is developed due to failure in the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone that is an androgen responsible for in utero development of the male external genitalia. Individuals under this group develop externally as females although containing high levels of internal testes and testosterone. These athletes were barred from participating the 1996 Olympics competitions but were later allowed in the 2000 under unknown conditions (“Solution on Sex Testing May Be Causing a New Problem – The New York Times”).
In 2009 Olympics games in Berlin, Caster Semenya, an athlete from South Africa, won the 800 meters race. However, she was under scrutiny by the IAAF over holding an unfair merit over others. After Semenya had been subjected to various chromosome and gene tests, it was discovered that she was intersex. Castro Semenya’s case gave the IAAF a challenge that propelled it to come up with another developed strategy of determining sex among the athletes and more specifically women. The IAAF came up with the new policy that does not give room for simplistic approach in the determination of who accounts and qualifies to be a female athlete. The new policy is based on functional testosterone. The new policy states that a woman who undergoes a testosterone test and tests in the male’s range for functional testosterone should have their testosterone levels chemically reduced before being allowed to participate in athletics. In other words, the policy does not only consider the amount of testosterone produced in the body but also, the way the body responds to it. This is so because it was discovered that some individuals’ cells could lack receptors that are necessary for achieving a given response (“Solution on Sex Testing May Be Causing a New Problem – The New York Times”).
Hormones that are recently considered in the determination of sex in women happen to be not naturally exclusive to males. This is because both women and men make androgens naturally which are sometimes known as strength building hormones whereby testosterone is one of them. According to IOC and the IAAF, although testosterone belong to women, it is considered a manly hormone. Therefore, they further argue that a woman can contain functional testosterone to some extent. If it the hormone exceeds a given level, she will be disqualified from the competitions on the basis of not being a real woman.
According to the above factors and methodologies that are applied in the determination of sex of athletes, it’s clear that they seem not to settle the problem of sex determination fully. The primitive way of a committee physically observing the athletes was a very weird methodology as it undermined the personal privacy of these people. It is considered to be against the morals and values of the society. The use of chromosome test in the determination is associated with inappropriateness in handling the issue of sex in sports. This is because there are cases that involve disorders of sex development whereby the test does not give the correct result. Also, upon using the approach of gene screening in determination of sex, at first it proves to be an appropriate methodology but later on turns out to be inappropriate. This is so due to the presence of various conditions upon which the test’s results cannot give the way forward as far as sex is concerned. Nevertheless, the new method of functional testosterone has been considered the best way to deal with the sex upon the women athletes. However, the approach also tends to level the bodies of the athletes. This implies that the game being played is managed by controlling the hormones of various participants thereby making the game unfair. Therefore, despite the efforts laid in the determination of sex by all the laid approaches and factors, still the issue is full of controversies in the society. In other words, sex determination still is a challenge to the sports industry.
Male and female dichotomy
Male and female dichotomy is to some extent misguided when it comes to human sexuality. In the efforts to determine the sex of individuals, it’s usually assumed that individuals who portray the external characteristics of a woman is female and that a man who also contains the external features of a man is a male. This assumption however doesn’t work in various conditions whereby individuals contain various sex development disorders. Therefore, there is a need for scientists and other involved medical practitioners to come up with the right methodologies that will be able to guide the entire issue of sex dichotomy in a more satisfactory manner (“Sprinter Dutee Chand Challenges Ban Over Her Testosterone Level – The New York Times”).
On comparison of the two sides of sex, more pressure is laid on the female athletes to prove that they are female as opposed to males who actually does not undergo the various tests that the females go through. This is so because the females contain very low strengthening hormones like testosterone as compared to the males. Therefore, there is a greater likelihood of the existence of large variations between the females as some will tend to extend towards the males’ levels as opposed to males who contain very minimal variations. For instance if a male contains a disorder that, for example, enables him to produce a lot of testosterone, it is likely to be considered as a natural advantage. These are the reasons that most probably makes the IOC, and the IAAF put more emphasis on the female athletes as opposed to the males.
Evaluation of the “Functional Testosterone” Policy in Sex Determination
It is clear that exogenous testosterone handles the enhancement of performance, basing the reason for it being considered as a doping substance. Therefore, it is an ideal decision to forbid individuals with this kind of testosterone from competing with the normal individuals. The adoption of the IOC and the IAAF of “Functional Testosterone” policy in the determination of the eligibility of women in competitions is a good advancement. This is because the policy advocates for the levelling of the hormone content in the bodies of participants which in turn promotes a fair competition. This policy allows the women to compete with a winning shot. However, the policy is imperfect to some extent in that the levels of testosterone measured are relevant to performance in the body through its muscles is responsive to the hormone. Also, testosterone happen not to be the only factor for the existence of unique sex variations in sports performances. Nevertheless, despite the existence of such drawbacks, the “Functional Testosterone” has proved to work in a more positive manner towards solving the controversies surrounding sex determination in human beings.
Evaluation of Sex Segregation in Athletic Competitions
The practice of holding separate athletic competitions for men and women is an ideal strategy employed by the IOC and the IAAF. Men contain higher levels of testosterone as compared to women. This merit strengthens the male’s muscles thereby enhancing their performances in athletics. Therefore, it is of great significance for the separation of the two sexes in carrying out of competitions. The variation in performance is clearly shown during the competitions. For instance, the males take a shorter period in finishing same distance races as compared to women. However, the separation of males and females to some extent does not promote fairness because the males end up participating more games as compared to the female. Despite this challenge, the separation of the two sexes is a good idea within the sports industry.
Fausto-Sterling, Anne. Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality. New York: Basic Books, 2000. Print.
“The Line Between Male and Female Athletes: How to Decide? – The New York Times.”The New York Times – Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 July 2015.
“Solution on Sex Testing May Be Causing a New Problem – The New York Times.” The New York Times – Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 July 2015.
“Sprinter Dutee Chand Challenges Ban Over Her Testosterone Level – The New York Times.” The New York Times – Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 July 2015.