Volume: 9 Issue: 4
The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) is confident that its rules on the eligibility of females with hyperandrogenism will withstand legal challenge when they are published on 1 May. Hyperandrogenism is a medical condition involving excessive production of hormones (androgens) such as testosterone.
Guidelines published by the International Olympic Committee on 5 April and the IAAF rules allow a female with hyperandrogenism to compete in women's events 'provided that she has androgen levels below the male range (measured by testosterone levels in serum)'. "We have received good feedback from lawyers and human rights experts", said an IAAF spokesperson. "It is the only way to deal with this issue from a medical point of view. If we don't have rules on this, we will also face legal challenge from other female athletes."
Kristen Worley, founder of the Coalition of Athletes for Inclusion in Sport, questioned basing eligibility rules on androgen levels. "It flies in the face of the overwhelming evidence of the tremendous hormonal variability among humans", she said. "This sets up many other young people for the devastating treatment that Caster Semenya experienced."
Both the IAAF and IOC also dismissed concerns that by making an athlete who fails a hyperandrogenism test ineligible, they are posing a threat to their privacy. 'A female athlete who declines, fails or refuses to comply with the eligibility determination process under the regulations shall not be eligible to compete in women's competition', read a 14 April IAAF release. Both the IAAF and IOC said there had been similar cases in the past that had been kept private. "Early detection for example under the Athlete Biological Passport will eliminate this issue", said an IAAF spokesperson.
The IOC's hyperandrogenism rules are scheduled for approval at the 123rd IOC Session in Durban, 1-9 July. "Once all athletes have their own biological passports, a case would be identified by abnormal hormone levels", said an IOC spokesperson. "Since it may take some years for biological passports to become fully applicable, we will rely on the following mechanisms to trigger an androgen investigation: (i) the athlete may have symptoms that make her consult her team doctor; (ii) a pre-participation health examination may reveal there is a problem; (iii) a suspicion may arise in the doping control station; or (iv) a doping control analysis may reveal an abnormal hormone pattern".