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The Semenya case: What is 'more fair'? Accepting an intersex reality or the need for medication?

Caster Semenya won the bronze medal in the women's 1500m at London 2017 (Photo: Getty Images)
by Gianni Merlo, AIPS President, La Gazzetta dello Sport

LONDON, August 9, 2017 - Caster Semenya is destined to be remembered in the history of sport as the woman who has changed an era, whichever way her story ends.

In 2009 she was publically shamed because here femininity was not convincing enough.

She had dominated the 800 meters at the World Championships in Berlin, but she was then made by the IAAF to take hormones to lower her natural testosterone levels, which had made her a Ferrari racing against Mickey Mouse cars.

Under medication, she also won the silver medal at Olympic Games in London, a medal that should now be gold due to the retrospective disqualification of Russia’s Mariya Savinova.

But two years ago, Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled that Caster could stop taking hormones that were artificially limiting her ‘engine’, because science has not yet convincingly demonstrated that higher levels of natural testosterone had obvious benefits.

This claim was seen as a blasphemy for some, and is a matter that is now being re-examined by CAS, with new results expected in the fall.

Meanwhile, at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, a group of female volunteers are being subjected to experiments looking into the benefits of taking synthetic testosterone to improve performance.

This experiment is crucial, but it is one that may ultimately lead to the need for sports to identify a third gender.

At this point, only time will tell whether it is more appropriate to force female athletes with excess testosterone to take medication and return to the so-called standard or to create a new opportunity, officially acknowledging the existence of a third reality, a third gender, one that is already officially recognized in some countries.

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