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Mon 14 Sep 09 #1 
Bright But Idle
Fact Daddy


I think that Caster raises some interesting questions.

There is widespread speculation that the newly crowned women's 800m champion has, shall we say, an unusual genetic make-up, and that this may give her an advantage over other women.

Now, I'm of the impression that Usain Bolt, in all probability, has been blessed with a genetic make-up that gives him an advantage over me (and probably every other human being on the planet).

So, from my point of view the genetics of athletes are never going to be a level playing field, so how should we decide on which genetic differences are acceptable and which aren't?


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Mon 14 Sep 09 #2 
kevg
The Grumpinator

Whilst feeling great sympathy for Caster the fact is that she is not a woman within the definate limits of the sport. Not having a womb is a giveaway unfortunately. Therein lies the crux of the matter. After the East German drug manipulation of the 70's the Athletics Association laid down strict guidelines for what is acceptable and what is not, she falls outside those guidelines despite doing nothing wrong. A terrible tragedy for the poor girl. The fact that the East German Athletics coach of the 70's is advisor to the South African team is an unfortunate aside.
However, I am in favour of a "talentless and bloody useless" category in most sports for those of us who just like to compete just don't hand out gold medals for it.


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Tue 15 Sep 09 #3 
Bright But Idle
Fact Daddy

But haven't they recently changed their stance so that trans-gender athletes can compete? And I think there's some phrase in there now that relates to "having been raised as a girl", which Caster undoubtedly has.

Her "edge", if the information turns out to be true, will therefore be her natural testosterone levels, so she will be outside an arbitrary limit used to detect cheats.

It just struck me that the women's 800m final looked no less fair than the men's 100m and 200m finals.


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Tue 15 Sep 09 #4 
Kristian
Olympian

Well, as a track & field athlete I must give my 2 cents on this.

When I first saw Semenya, she didn't seem as a girl to me. It's quite questionable how an 18 year old can win the World Athletics Final on 800m - generally a discipline where the best results are made after 25 years.

Many women in the past, and probably now are taking male hormones (testosterone), so they would be strong as men are. The East-German chemical industry has brought East Germany several world records (for example 400m. - 47.60 --- which I doubt that will ever be broken).

Having male hormones, Casters definitely has an advantage in front of the other girls.

...


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Tue 15 Sep 09 #5 
Bright But Idle
Fact Daddy

But do you concede that Usain Bolt has an advantage in front of other men?


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Tue 15 Sep 09 #6 
kevg
The Grumpinator

Decidedly, natural physique is a huge advantage in any sport, no amount of training can overcome that. That is why I am not Heavyweight Champion of the World having to be content with an attempt at this years Conkers Championship.
Hadn't heard about the new regs, if that is right then there isn't a reason to ban her cos , as you say, she has been brought up a female and no drug use involved.
I do wish the Athletics body had handled it more sensitively.


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Tue 15 Sep 09 #7 
Bright But Idle
Fact Daddy

Kristian,

Not sure your note regarding age holds true.

How old was Pamela Jelimo when she won the women's 800m in Beijing? 18 or 19?

How old was Maria Mutola when she won the World's in 1993? 20 maybe?

I don't recall either of those being much of a scandal regarding their sexuality?


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Tue 15 Sep 09 #8 
Kristian
Olympian

I was speaking generally, of course there are always exceptions to the rules.

Bolt has an advantage in front of other men, but then again he's a man, and hasn't been tested positive on doping.


Quite questionable topic it is.


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Tue 15 Sep 09 #9 
Bright But Idle
Fact Daddy

But Caster Semenya hasn't cheated either, and any advantage she has is entirely natural.

As regards the age question, trying to throw "exceptions to the rule" at my suggestions is a bit weak really. Mutola dominated the event for a good 10 years after she first won the World Championships, and Jelimo is the reigning Olympic champion, so I would place both as being more than exceptions and therefore quite relevant to this. I'm not exactly dredging history for these.

The brief look at Jelimo's record makes very similar reading the Semenya's insomuch as she improved a great deal very quickly at a young age.


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Tue 15 Sep 09 #10 
kevg
The Grumpinator

Personally I always thought Mutola was a man but she was accepted by her peers so no probs there.Never hear of women competing in men's events strangely, cept for that Chinese/American golfer of course, who seems to have disappeared.


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Tue 15 Sep 09 #11 
Bright But Idle
Fact Daddy

Michelle Wie


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Thu 24 Sep 09 #12 
jmaxg
Contributor

BBI? It's a helluva great discussion point.

Can you answer some questions?

Such as....

1. Given the long history of hermaphrodites, have there been any other recorded instances of hermaphrodites competing? I don't know if there has, but there may have been.

2. If so, what was the call?

3. If not, what would be YOUR call in this instance?


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Thu 24 Sep 09 #13 
Bright But Idle
Fact Daddy

OK, other instances from the past seem to vary between confusion and cheating, or in other words transexual vs transvestite.

Equally a theme seems to be countries where political advantage was sought through sporting success, so it's easy to suggest that this was, if not orchestrated by, at least known by the local governing bodies.

That makes the Caster story a little different as I haven't seen a single person suggest that there is any attempt to cheat, and I don't think that the SA authorities had any idea there was a potential issue.

The aspect that Caster highlights is that it's only success that causes the questions to be asked.
I think it's also interesting to consider other fantastic athletes from the past who would, right or wrong, have been subject to all manner of specualtion if you look at the "model" used today. Babe Didrikson would be one such athlete, multi event success, Olympic gold medals, "masculine" "muscular" looks, questions over sexual orientation, never had children.

It's a cynical world we live in.

As regards the questions...

Here's a few examples from the past

Dora Ratjen came 4th in the high jump at the 1936 Olympics for Germany, only got found out when "she" broke the world record a couple of years later

Stella Walsh won gold in the 100m at the 1932 Olympics (in addition to a glittering career). Questions over here sexuality were only raised following her death in 1980 when she was killed whilst an innocent bystander of a robbery, and an autopsy was performed.

Irina and Tamara Press were sisters who were dominant across a whole range of athletic disciplines in the early 60s. There sexuality appears to have been in question during their careers and they never competed after sex testing became mandatory in 1966.

Santhi Soundarajan was an Indian competitor in the 800m at the 2006 Asian games. She won silver, but was stripped of it subsequent to sex testing. Quite sadly she attempted suicide a year or so later, but now is reported to be running a successful athletics academy.


MY CALL?

Gender is a much more complex issue than man/woman. When you have to decide in those black and white terms, you are going to end up having to try and confront situations such as this.

As regards Caster Semenya, although she may have certain inter-sexual traits, she has been raised as a girl and should compete as one.

What I think is at the core of this is the perception that we are all equal, and that if you work hard enough you will succeed. With regards to sports, I'm certain that some people have a genetic advantage over others, so, if you pardon the pun, it is not a level playing field to start with, so trying to legislate over how level it should be is a very dangerous game.


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Sat 26 Sep 09 #14 
jmaxg
Contributor

You forgot this unfortunate incident from the 3004 Earth Olympics....

Photobucket

"Coilette" was later discovered to be one "Bender B. Rodriguez", a male contestant that had gotten his hydraulic fluids exchanged for a lighter grade, and had a fembot chip temporarily installed.

But seriously folks, I think you are right BBI. But it does raise questions. We all know of hormonally pumped females competing and the problems there.

But a hermaphrodite? Should that be allowed?

I know it would be dangerous to start insisting on sex testing for athletics at lower levels. But once you get to the highest, or near highest, national level at least, then why not? I mean hormone testing....not anything intrusive.

I know I am being simplistic, what with test masking technologies and the like, but in Caster Semenya's case, I am unaware of what testing she underwent before she broke the world record.


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Sat 26 Sep 09 #15 
Bright But Idle
Fact Daddy

I can see no reference anywhere to her ever failing a drugs test, and she will have had quite a number in the last 12 months at least due to her successes.

If she indeed has these "male characteristics" then (and somebody had better look for a reference here) she should have failed the test for ratios of testosterone to epitestosterone.

I think hermaphrodite is a specific term for a specific type of intersexuality and if Caster had displayed two sets of genitals then we wouldn't be here now.

Couple of interesting links.

This one, doesn't support any particular part of either viewpoint, but talks about testosterone and genetics

link

This one is interesting in that racism is being thrown into the debate, which I entirely don't agree with, but I think it gives you an idea how taboo this whole concept is.

link


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Sat 26 Sep 09 #16 
jmaxg
Contributor

In respect to her being a hermaphrodite....

I think she has.......a report over here had her fallopian tubes leading to testicles.

Is that report correct?

I admit to not knowing if that is possible, but I assumed it could be.

Please ask DS not to punish me for my ignorance.


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Sat 26 Sep 09 #17 
Bright But Idle
Fact Daddy

Not sure about that report, haven't seen it.

As for hermaphrodite or not, just looked at a definition or two, and the both "both sets of genitalia" view appears to be old school. The safest use of the term is to describe "having both male and female reproductive organs".

So it's still a very area (no pun intended) and we'll probably end up in a semantic debate.

So I say we strike the word from the record and replace it with the PC and more encompassing "intersexual"


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Mon 28 Sep 09 #18 
jmaxg
Contributor

Don't you mean "intrasexual"?

:-)


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Tue 29 Sep 09 #19 
rmcmanus
Editor

I think it's called "middlesex", and isnt the definition of a hermaphrodite one with functioning sexual organs?

I agree that she is a she and should be treated as such, I doubt very much that she is unique in her case, and I wonder just how many other atheletes in the past who have performed exceptionally were also of the third sex?

Personally, I feel that if her case is a result of nature then she won fair and square, particularly if there was no awareness of her medical history. If she had been the result of a testosterone overload in her youth then unfortunately that is manipulation and therefore probably cheating.

If you ban her due to her natural hormone levels then I think you should open up a third category in these competitions for other people who have this third sex. I see a certain level of distasteful discrimination in all the media against her and her gender, isn't it about time people just started acepting that there are more than 2 genders?


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