Hands off Caster!

Hands off Caster!

Sport as a code has been in existence far longer than prostitution, or so one can assume. From the moment that the cavemen realised that they were bored with the daily hunting expeditions and sought something more to while away time, from engaging in rock-art and imitating the animals they hunted, the cave people began to run from one marker to the next, daring peers to outrun them, and the sprint was started until it reached the distance of a mile, then a marathon.

Tired with the running, the cavemen would throw spears against a target some distance away, and javelin was born. To test their strength and to pit it against that of their mates in the cave, the early man started picking heavy rocks and throwing them far as he could, and shot put and discus were started.
This is an imaginary scene of the early years of the human race and its involvement in sporting codes, what came later in Classical Greece and ancient Rome in the form of the Olympics and gladiatorial bouts was just an advancement of what had been begun far in the past misty past of the caveman.

Fast-forward to the present day, international sports form the core of the entertainment industry and figures emerge as celebrities in their different sporting codes. Carried shoulder high at victory parades, the athletic heroes of the world come home to lavish lifestyles and perks that come with the victories they win.
The benefits that come with the victories are well deserved considering the fact that they are achieved in the name of the nation and the country. It vexes one’s understanding why certain athletes in recent history have been ostracised for their achievements despite the tremendous contributions they have made to the sporting codes they compete in.
One is a paralympian, the other a female athlete who has faced discrimination from international sporting bodies due to her different sexuality. Their case is not unique, and may have begun well before the current regulations in sports were established. What one sees is that discrimination in sports is often hinged on some unfounded scientific premise and the justifications for the rulings barely go the distance before being revealed for what they really are.

When Oscar Pistorius began to outrun every athlete there was in track and field despite his disability (his legs had been cut at the knee), his prowess was blamed on his use of prosthetic running blades (the famous Cheetahs developed in Switzerland) that gave him an advantage over other runners. He won the case and continued to run until the murder case that ended his career.
A media report states that Oscar Pistorius was born with a congenital disorder, which required the amputation of the lower part of both legs at the age of 11 months. Despite having no lower legs, Oscar went on to establish a successful sports career at school and university, playing rugby, water polo and tennis before discovering track as part of a rehabilitative programme for a rugby injury.
Pistorius went on to dominate the Paralympics podium in the 100m, 200m and 400m events, also competing against, and beating, many elite able bodied runners in races such as the 2007 South African Championships (which he won) and the Golden Gala in Rome. One believes that it was not the legs that won Pistorius his races, it was his indomitable spirit of a winner that sets out to win against all the odds. Rather than honour that human spirit that made this man such an excellent athlete, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) chose to ban him.
It was in ‘The IAAF v Oscar Pistorius’, a landmark legal battle that came after the IAAF had banned Pistorius from competing in the Beijing Olympic 200m sprint event, regardless of whether he achieved the qualifying time for the event. The rationale for the ban was that Oscar used prosthetic legs which gave him a competitive advantage over ‘able bodied’ athletes.

The ban was not underpinned by scientific research (meaning it was baseless), and Pistorius’ camp thus levelled charges of unfairness and possible discrimination against the IAAF for their actions. By doing this, Pistorius faced the might of the most powerful athletic organisation in the world, and also faced doubt from detractors that included some of his well respected peers, but he stood his ground and refused to accept the ban. In his famous declaration he stated:
‘We are not disabled by our disabilities but are enabled by our abilities’

The IAAF was proved wrong and he won the case, but it leaves a few questions such as: why should it be justifiable for certain individuals to judge others on conditions that did not come of choice? Is it right for authority to lord over unavoidable human conditions? Should athletes be merited on the basis of conditions they have no control over? Should athletes be part of human experimentation practices that have not previously been performed?

The last questions are in direct reference to the case of Caster Semenya. Semenya and Athletics South Africa requested that the Difference of Sexual Development (DSD) Regulations be declared invalid and void with immediate effect. This is due to the regulations being considered discriminatory, unnecessary, unreliable and disproportionate.
The IAAF contends that the DSD Regulations do not infringe any athlete’s rights, including the right to equal treatment, but instead are a justified and proportionate means of ensuring consistent

treatment, and preserving fair and meaningful competition within the “female classification”.
The argument that one can raise is why there should be a separate classification for female athletes in a non-sexist world. Establishing a binary divide between male and female athletes is pretty similar to judging women on the basis of their capability based on their sex. The ruling sounds patriarchal in that it establishes a ceiling with regard to the physical abilities of female athletes. I mean: what is wrong if a woman is physically stronger than men?

Limiting female prowess to a certain limit in blunt terms sounds sexist, as if Semenya is a freak of nature, that she should have levels of testosterone ranging in the territory prescribed to fit with the authorities’ classification and determination of what is ‘female’; as if the world never had a warrior class of women (the Amazons) in the past.
What are women’s rights groups saying about this? Nothing… and it feels out of place.

In early 2018, the IAAF cancelled its “Hyperandrogenism Regulations”, which had been primarily challenged by the Indian athlete Dutee Chand. She had been subjected to the humiliating practice of gender testing by sporting bodies of the world. She was finally cleared to compete in 2018, proving that the hyperandrogenism athletes like her and Semenya did not disqualify her from competing as a female athlete.
The ruling lacks evidence with regard to the fact that higher levels of testosterone in a female body actually put a female athlete born with the condition at an advantage over fellow competitors with lower levels of testosterone.

The regulations were replaced with new DSD Regulations establishing requirements governing the eligibility of women with DSD for the female classification in race events from 400m to 1 mile at international athletics competitions. The DSD covered by the Regulations are limited to athletes with “46 XY DSD” (conditions where the affected individual has XY chromosomes).
It is normal for individuals to be born with XY chromosomes, and human history has not actually treated them differently from individuals with XX chromosomes; what has always worked are the legally established gender classification models. That those with XX chromosomes are not subject to any restrictions or eligibility conditions under the DSD Regulations is a clear indicator that the authorities have other interests than just the sexual make-up of the individual athlete that wins events. What would happen if Caster or Dutee did not win in their categories, would there still be this much noise over the question of their sexuality?

I doubt it and, why are there no random tests to establish the levels of testosterone for every ‘female’ athlete?
Authorities say athletes with 46 XY DSD have testosterone levels that are well into the male range (7.7 to 29.4 nmol/L; with the normal female range being below 2 nmol/L). The DSD Regulations require athletes with 46 XY DSD with a natural testosterone level over 5 nmol/L, and who experience a “material androgenizing effect” from that enhanced testosterone level, to reduce their natural testosterone level to below 5 nmol/L, and to maintain that reduced level for a continuous period of at least six months in order to be eligible to compete in a Restricted Event (400m to 1mile).

Such reduction can be achieved, according to the IAAF evidence, by the use of normal oral contraceptives. This has however not been previously tested, and despite their silence, the medical fraternity currently has no idea as to the adverse effects this type of treatment potentially carries. Who should then volunteer to be the guinea-pig in an unfounded human experiment?
In the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Jesse Owens won gold medals in the 100 and 200-meter dashes, the broad jump, and the 400-meter relay. In the process, he set three Olympic records and cast doubt on the Nazi racial propaganda of a superior Aryan race promoted at the games. Those watching were proved wrong that only the blonde blue-eyed Aryan race envisioned by the German Chancellor, Adolf Hitler, could take the mastery of everything in the world.

The poor black boy from Cleveland, Ohio, shattered the myth of a superior race even before it begun. Though his wife, Ruth Owens, does not believe Jesse tried to prove anything to Hitler or anyone else, her husband’s victories at the 1936 Olympics proved one fact: what is good is good no matter what human judgement may deem it to be. In her speech she said, “I have often heard him say he went over to Germany to run, and run he did,” she said.

“Jesse was an athlete and it meant a lot to him to go over there and represent the United States and to come out with such honour.’’
Hitler’s ideas of a superior race would come to be seen in the experiments of one of his generals, Josef Mengele. Mengele’s primary aim in research was to prove that certain traits were inherited and thus could be bred out of existence. Included in these traits were eye color, obesity, and certain nasal features. The experiments’ ultimate goal was to produce an ideal race of Aryan men and women endowed with only the finest genetic traits, who would rapidly multiply and rule the world.

This potential medical breakthrough and the manipulation of traits through careful breeding practices would make Mengele universally famous. Mengele understood he could only achieve professional success through industrious determination, for he knew he was not as gifted as his contemporaries. He held that “. . . if he only worked hard enough, performed enough experimental studies, tested a sufficient number of twins, then he would be recognised as the great scientist he thought he was.”
He began to push the ethical boundaries of his profession, and experienced no professional backlash. The outcome was so-called legalised human experimentation and unchecked torture conducted solely for personal gain.

One sees the same type of hypothesis in the regulations of the IAAF, forcing certain athletes to take prescriptions to alter their genetic make-up so that they can fit into prescribed gender descriptions.

It does not make sense why an athlete should be randomly tested for banned substances and yet, the same random test is not applied when testing for hyperandrogenism in female athletes. That Caster and her type of athlete are subjected to dehumanising tests is an issue that should not be allowed in the modern day when gender rights are said to be observed.
One’s achievements should not make them the pariah of their profession, yet one sees the IAAF working hard to make achievers pariahs in the sport. This means that those children born with the same condition may actually end up discouraged from competitive sport even if they have the potential to do so. Who would want to be subjected to previously untested ideas disguised as tests?
The basis of these tests lies in some new-age Josef Mengele that wants to set a certain standard in competitive sport by using science and law as defences for their self-interest. Human potential is unlimited, and limiting it to some individual scale is sheer travesty. I just wish the women of the day would be true to their word and for the first time stick by their sister for a change. Unless the jealousy against her achievements is so great that it renders the women of this world who have been segregated for so long catatonic. There is just one slogan that rings in one’s head: Hands off Caster!!!

Tšepiso S. Mothibi

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