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Thread: Caster Semenya Decision

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    Very Active Member knelson's Avatar
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    Caster Semenya Decision

    See: https://www.bbc.com/sport/athletics/48102479

    Kind of surprised we haven't seen something similar in swimming yet.

    I think it's the correct decision. Semenya can certainly choose to identify as a woman, but that doesn't give her the right to compete as one. The bottom line is that her high testosterone level gives her an unfair advantage over her competition. Yes, you can make the argument that many elite athletes have physical attributes that give them an advantage, however sex is currently the only criterion used to separate the competitors (at least in swimming and T&F).

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    Re: Caster Semenya Decision

    But sex is not the criterion specifically: Ms. Semenya is a woman, that's her assigned sex (as far as we know), and how she operates in the world. She has an unusually high testosterone level for a ciswoman: so do many other ciswomen. (and no, not all of them are high-profile, elite competitors). She's being told that she isn't woman enough and has to physically alter herself in order to align with what the governing body has chose to define as woman-enough.

    Some cismen have hypogonadism - should they take testosterone, even if they don't want to, to make them eligible to compete with men if we decide that there's a cutoff of hormone levels between "female" and "male"?

    If hormone levels are our guide, can we decide that prepubescent children all compete under the same umbrella, regardless of assigned sex? Man, there would be some pretty angry people in a lot of places if you did that.

    Then again, in other sports, even ones where musculature is a consideration (equestrian sports, in spite of what people think, require a significant amount of core and leg strength, as well as balance and coordination), there is no sex-based separation.

    So what does it mean a) for other elite athletes (do organizers go out and check everyone's blood hormone levels to make sure they all fall under the correct umbrella, or just for people who don't fit the mold?) and b) for everyone else, in amateur and casual sports.

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    Very Active Member Redbird Alum's Avatar
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    Re: Caster Semenya Decision

    Quote Originally Posted by knelson View Post
    .... Semenya can certainly choose to identify as a woman, but that doesn't give her the right to compete as one. The bottom line is that her high testosterone level gives her an unfair advantage over her competition...).
    I don't think the phrase "Identify as" is appropriate here. She is a she, not medically modified since birth. The physical characteristics that gave her higher testosterone naturally occurred.

    Some people might want to challenge someone with overly developed feet, hands, and naturally hyperextensive joints as having non-human tendencies and a competitive advantage as well. Where would it stop?


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    Very Active Member knelson's Avatar
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    Re: Caster Semenya Decision

    Quote Originally Posted by Redbird Alum View Post
    I don't think the phrase "Identify as" is appropriate here. She is a she, not medically modified since birth. The physical characteristics that gave her higher testosterone naturally occurred.

    Some people might want to challenge someone with overly developed feet, hands, and naturally hyperextensive joints as having non-human tendencies and a competitive advantage as well. Where would it stop?
    She was certainly raised female and identifies as such, but I don't think biologically it's clear cut. She has testes. For me the bottom line is: is it fair to allow someone with testes to compete as a woman?

    I don't think your second paragraph is apples to apples because we currently divide competitors solely based on sex, not on any other physical characteristics.

    I admit this is a tough one. It doesn't seem fair to her to force her to take drugs to compete, but in the big picture is it fair to her competitors to allow her to compete as is?

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    Very Active Member knelson's Avatar
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    Re: Caster Semenya Decision

    I thought this was a pretty good summation of the evidence for why women with very high T levels have an advantage in sports competition: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/01/h...tosterone.html

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    Very Active Member ourswimmer's Avatar
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    Re: Caster Semenya Decision

    Quote Originally Posted by Redbird Alum View Post
    I don't think the phrase "Identify as" is appropriate here. She is a she, not medically modified since birth. The physical characteristics that gave her higher testosterone naturally occurred.
    Quite true: Since birth, Semenya has had one X and one Y chromosome; testes rather than ovaries; and no uterus. Since puberty she has had no menstrual cycle and no breasts. In every sport-relevant way, her body is male.

    When she was a newborn infant, her parents thought that her (reportedly) ambiguous external genitalia were more like "girl" than "boy," and raised her accordingly. If they had chosen the other way she would have grown up as a fine but in no way elite athlete. She is super-elite only if we restrict comparison to a category that is meaningless if she is in it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Redbird Alum View Post
    Some people might want to challenge someone with overly developed feet, hands, and naturally hyperextensive joints as having non-human tendencies and a competitive advantage as well. Where would it stop?
    It can stop wherever we want to stop it. A lot of sports categorize competitors by sex. Some categorize by weight, too. I don't know of any that categorize by foot or hand size or by joint mobility but I suppose they could. In all cases, the sports need easy, objective, and non-humiliating ways to put competitors into one category or the other. At the amateur level (such as in USMS) self-sorting is usually adequate. Where Olympic medals and pro money are at stake I can see why people would want objectively measurable criteria.

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