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pov May 1st, 2018 07:46 PM

Caster Semenya and the IAAF - a ruling lacking scientific backing
 
https://www.theguardian.com/sport/bl...s-testosterone


They say there are six tics that tell you when someone’s bluffing. When it comes to Caster Semenya and the IAAF, here’s a seventh. Be wary of anyone who says it’s all straightforward. The Semenya case isn’t just about sport, or sex, or gender, but ethics, politics, culture, race, and science. Expert opinion is split. Which is why the arguments have been going back and forth for the best part of a decade, and the case now seems bound to return to the court of arbitration for sport, where they will try to find the black and the white in all the shades of grey.

Semenya keeps her counsel, her only public comments her pointed tweets. There’s a wildfire burning around her. The IAAF has been accused of discrimination, of racism, of propagating heteronormative standards of femininity, of trying to dictate what is and isn’t normal. Their policy has been compared to those used in apartheid South Africa, and said, by a member of the IAAF’s own disciplinary tribunal, to be “based on the same kind of ideology that has led to some of the worst injustices and atrocities in the history of our planet.”

The language is fierce. There are athletes and coaches who disagree, but few will speak publicly.

At the heart of the IAAF’s argument is the idea that women’s athletics is a “protected” category. Men and women don’t compete together because, if they did, there would be little point in women competing at all. As they say, “the IAAF divides competition into male and female classifications because male athletes have clear performance advantages in terms of size, strength and power” and these advantages “are due mainly to the fact that, starting from puberty, [men] produce 10-30 times more testosterone than women”.

Athletes with Differences of Sexual Development, like Semenya, have significantly higher testosterone levels than the women they’re competing against. According to the IAAF, the typical female range of circulating testosterone in serum is 0.12 to 1.79 nmol/L, while the typical male range is 7.7 to 29.4nmol/L. Females with DSD often have testosterone levels in the male range. And since the IAAF’s position is that testosterone is the key distinguishing factor between male and female performance, they believe athletes with DSD have an unfair advantage.

“Unfair” is the key word. Because on the one side, there’s an argument that high testosterone is just another natural advantage, like a basketballer’s reach or a swimmer’s large feet. And on the other, that basketball doesn’t divide players by height, and swimming doesn’t seek to protect swimmers with smaller feet. But because it has male and female categories, athletics does split competition between those with high and low testosterone, to protect the female athletes.

Here, then, testosterone has been conflated with sex, as if it were the only measure of difference between men and women. It’s not, of course, it’s just the one the IAAF has settled on, because other methods it could use, such as chromosome testing, are flawed. But so is this. Because while it might seem intuitively true that testosterone provides a performance advantage, the IAAF needs to prove it, too. And it has to show that the advantage is so great that it can justify a set of regulations many think are discriminatory. Which is where its case failed the last time it came before the Cas in 2015, and, it seems, where it will likely fail again if it comes back there now.

In 2015, Cas suspended the old set of regulations while the IAAF went away to gather new evidence. Instead the IAAF produced new regulations. The new set only apply to distances between 400m and one mile, where, the IAAF says, testosterone advantage is most pronounced. This is the very same range of events Semenya runs. Which means that, even though none of the IAAF literature mentions Semenya, the rules seem, in the words of the South African minister of sport, Tokozile Xasa, like “Caster Semenya Regulations”.

Last year the IAAF released a key study, which found that female athletes with higher levels of testosterone had an advantage in five events, the 400m, 400m hurdles, 800m, hammer throw, and pole vault. And that study, which underpins these new regulations, now looks deeply flawed. Andrew Gelman, Higgins professor of statistics at Columbia University, described the analysis as “such a mess that I can’t really figure out what data they are working with, what exactly they are doing, or the connection between some of their analyses and their scientific goals.”

Gelman is a rare voice in all this, one without any emotional investment, or even an in interest the sport. His only concern is the work. And he found it lacking. The IAAF says that this was only one paper, and that its case is bolstered by a body of confidential data. But still, after 15 years of study, its very best public evidence was debunked within weeks of its release. If after a decade of trying the IAAF still can’t prove it is right that DSD athletes shouldn’t be allowed to compete unless they lower their testosterone, then all these hard questions fade in to one easy, unavoidable, answer. The IAAF has got it wrong.

Onslow May 3rd, 2018 12:07 PM

Re: Caster Semenya and the IAAF - a ruling lacking scientific backing
 
It's clear beyond any doubt that higher levels of testosterone helps athletes. Semenya would not argue against lowering her levels if it wasn't true.

I would rather make female sports fair for >99.99% of women than give a clear edge to those born with some male organs.

pov May 3rd, 2018 01:04 PM

Re: Caster Semenya and the IAAF - a ruling lacking scientific backing
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Onslow (Post 80267064)
It's clear beyond any doubt that higher levels of testosterone helps athletes. Semenya would not argue against lowering her levels if it wasn't true.

I would rather make female sports fair for >99.99% of women than give a clear edge to those born with some male organs.

Yes. Of course. So does higher lung capacity, lower heart rate, higher degree of flexibility, etc.

Would you please read and try to understand things before you weigh in.

Onslow May 3rd, 2018 01:46 PM

Re: Caster Semenya and the IAAF - a ruling lacking scientific backing
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by pov (Post 80267148)
Yes. Of course. So does higher lung capacity, lower heart rate, higher degree of flexibility, etc.

Would you please read and try to understand things before you weigh in.

I read the article but the title already claims that the ruling lacks scientific backing. It's true only in the sense that the ruling should cover all events.

Do you know what kind of drugs transgender people take? Those transitioning man to woman are taking testosterone-lowering drugs and those vice versa are taking testosterone. Testosterone is very essential hormone in defining and experiencing sex/gender.

PS. My argument never was that it's 100% fair to force Semenya take drugs to compete. I just rather make it fairer to the 99.99% than give a clear edge to the 0.01%.

Dalek194 May 3rd, 2018 01:57 PM

Re: Caster Semenya and the IAAF - a ruling lacking scientific backing
 
I think the way that Caster Semenya has been treated is absolutely disgraceful.

She's carried herself with as much dignity as possible given the circumstances (where they seem determined to strip it from her) and has done absolutely nothing wrong.

She's had the IAAF waging this war against her for the best part of a decade, simply for being born the way that she is.

pov May 3rd, 2018 02:01 PM

Re: Caster Semenya and the IAAF - a ruling lacking scientific backing
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Onslow (Post 80267202)
I read the article but the title already claims that the ruling lacks scientific backing. It's true only in the sense that the ruling should cover all events.

Do you know what kind of drugs transgender people take? Those transitioning man to woman are taking testosterone-lowering drugs and those vice versa are taking testosterone. Testosterone is very essential hormone in defining and experiencing sex/gender.

PS. My argument never was that it's 100% fair to force Semenya take drugs to compete. I just rather make it fairer to the 99.99% than give a clear edge to the 0.01%.

Perhaps that was poor titling by me. The facts are that 1/ the study carried out and the conclusions based on it are questionable and 2/ we don't exclude men with natural advantages. If it's fair to allow men whose biology puts them in a 0.01% among men then it's fair to do the same for women.

As for the science:

Quote:

the study shows high levels of testosterone was affecting male and female athletes differently, depending on the event.

To critics of the IAAF decision, that outcome seems fishy. They say the French study shows association between testosterone and performance (in some events) rather than causation. They note that the natural advantage of men over women in these track events is much larger, from 10 to 12 percent.
Quote:

“Take it out of the hands of the IAAF and give it to someone more honest, like the International Olympic Committee,” says Peter Sonksen, professor emeritus of endocrinology at the St. Thomas Hospital and King’s College, London, and lead author of an January editorial in the same British Medical Journal denouncing the French IAAF study.
Quote:

. “It’s not that there’s no effect of testosterone on athletic performance, but it doesn’t provide the kind they complain about,” says Katrina Karkazis, a bioethicist and visiting fellow at the Yale University Global Health Justice Partnership.

Wojcirej May 3rd, 2018 02:16 PM

Re: Caster Semenya and the IAAF - a ruling lacking scientific backing
 

Dalek194 May 3rd, 2018 02:22 PM

Re: Caster Semenya and the IAAF - a ruling lacking scientific backing
 

Perun May 3rd, 2018 02:51 PM

Re: Caster Semenya and the IAAF - a ruling lacking scientific backing
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Dalek194 (Post 80267236)
I think the way that Caster Semenya has been treated is absolutely disgraceful.

She's carried herself with as much dignity as possible given the circumstances (where they seem determined to strip it from her) and has done absolutely nothing wrong.

She's had the IAAF waging this war against her for the best part of a decade, simply for being born the way that she is.


No.
It's about countries who specifically search for athletes like Caster to get victories. Caster has an unfair advantage (and at least few others - the number of them is getting higher and higher, no wonder why) over other women.

Hanan Ubis May 3rd, 2018 03:39 PM

Re: Caster Semenya and the IAAF - a ruling lacking scientific backing
 
I think the issue here is that while society may generally benefit from its function to put men and women on a binary, sex really is more of a spectrum based on a variety of factors, with just a lot less people in the middle.


So unless there is a culturally recognized, accepted, and distinct enough third gender or another way of organizing athletes, this will be a recurring issue.

Joana May 3rd, 2018 04:27 PM

Re: Caster Semenya and the IAAF - a ruling lacking scientific backing
 
Wait, there are things called "men" and "women"? I'm shocked! Aren't those just supposed to be social constructs, biological sex doesn't exist and it's all just one biiiig ol' spectrum and we can choose to be what we like whenever we like it?

Now really, the IAAF ruling is indeed silly in that it tries to be a Solomonic solution of some kind instead of doing what's right, and that's banning Caster Semenya from competition. She's not a biological woman and professional sport is the one area of life where biological sex DOES matter. That's why men and women don't compete against each other. And if you're in favour of men and women competing separately, it's only logical not to have Caster Semenya compete against other women. Because, as I said, she's biologically not a woman.

But of course there's going to be an outrage over this and I fully expect this ruling to be revoked soon enough. And I can't wait for the day an elite male athlete declares that he considers himself to be a woman and demands to compete against women, just for the piss of it. That day can't be too far away, and it's going to be so much fun.

Dalek194 May 3rd, 2018 05:01 PM

Re: Caster Semenya and the IAAF - a ruling lacking scientific backing
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Perun (Post 80267324)
No.
It's about countries who specifically search for athletes like Caster to get victories. Caster has an unfair advantage (and at least few others - the number of them is getting higher and higher, no wonder why) over other women.

I understand the point you made above, but your other comments (which I see have since been removed from your post) were incredibly ignorant and hurtful. Please, people, take some time to educate yourself about the term "intersex" and the complex reality that comes with it.

The fact is, around 1 in 2000 folks are born with sex characteristics which don't fall exclusively into the binary categories of male or female. There are all sorts of sub-categories to classify intersex individuals, and it can range from having little to no visible impact on their daily lives, to presenting itself visibly and causing them to be judged ignorantly or unfairly.

As @pov has mentioned above, elite male athletes are allowed to benefit from biological advantages which are naturally occurring, and put them in an elite bracket (such as Michael Phelps' huge feet and uber-flexible ankles). Whereas, Caster is being treated like some sort of cheat, simply for trying to take part in sport exactly as she is.

The fact that she is so unfairly maligned is, I repeat, a disgrace.

Hanan Ubis May 4th, 2018 03:50 AM

Re: Caster Semenya and the IAAF - a ruling lacking scientific backing
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Joana (Post 80267660)
Wait, there are things called "men" and "women"? I'm shocked! Aren't those just supposed to be social constructs, biological sex doesn't exist and it's all just one biiiig ol' spectrum and we can choose to be what we like whenever we like it?

Now really, the IAAF ruling is indeed silly in that it tries to be a Solomonic solution of some kind instead of doing what's right, and that's banning Caster Semenya from competition. She's not a biological woman and professional sport is the one area of life where biological sex DOES matter. That's why men and women don't compete against each other. And if you're in favour of men and women competing separately, it's only logical not to have Caster Semenya compete against other women. Because, as I said, she's biologically not a woman.

But of course there's going to be an outrage over this and I fully expect this ruling to be revoked soon enough. And I can't wait for the day an elite male athlete declares that he considers himself to be a woman and demands to compete against women, just for the piss of it. That day can't be too far away, and it's going to be so much fun.

i think an elite male athlete doing that might not happen any time soon, at least in non-team sports. it takes too much sacrifice and effort to train seriously that it's not really advantageous to make a mockery of sport.

i think not allowing caster to compete in women's sports might be fair if they make some concrete and science-based delineation of the sex binary (which I don't know enough about to be honest), but then IAAF should have distinct categories of competition for those who are left out, and the delineation shouldn't be made specifically just to leave out caster of women's sports.

also a testosterone level bar would be a bad precedent (if even testosterone correlates with athletic performance). IE... one of the IAAF laws used to be to keep the testosterone under 10 nm/liter. Then the goal becomes to take supplements (for both girls who are lower and girls who are higher) to get just around 9.9. Isn't that the opposite of what IAAF wants?

I like Caster's attitude towards this. She just tells them to f*** off basically lol.

Monzanator May 4th, 2018 09:07 AM

Re: Caster Semenya and the IAAF - a ruling lacking scientific backing
 
Something had to be done. IAAF has finally decided to make a move rather than look the other way. I don't care what Semenya defenders say, I wanted IAAF to take action and they finally did (again).

Perun May 4th, 2018 11:37 AM

Re: Caster Semenya and the IAAF - a ruling lacking scientific backing
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Dalek194 (Post 80267754)
I understand the point you made above, but your other comments (which I see have since been removed from your post) were incredibly ignorant and hurtful. Please, people, take some time to educate yourself about the term "intersex" and the complex reality that comes with it.

The fact is, around 1 in 2000 folks are born with sex characteristics which don't fall exclusively into the binary categories of male or female. There are all sorts of sub-categories to classify intersex individuals, and it can range from having little to no visible impact on their daily lives, to presenting itself visibly and causing them to be judged ignorantly or unfairly.

As @pov has mentioned above, elite male athletes are allowed to benefit from biological advantages which are naturally occurring, and put them in an elite bracket (such as Michael Phelps' huge feet and uber-flexible ankles). Whereas, Caster is being treated like some sort of cheat, simply for trying to take part in sport exactly as she is.

The fact that she is so unfairly maligned is, I repeat, a disgrace.

For me it's not the same as having big feet or being talented thanks to your genetics as your head-start though. I do wonder what would be the reaction if Caster broke Jarmila Kratochvilova's record (that is by all acounts steroid triggered). For me she clearly restrained herself from running even faster times because it would rise suspicions even more. Her body is full of testosterone that other girls would not be allowed to take even if they wanted.


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