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Gender Verification Policy Introduced at London 2012 Olympics

This is part of our special coverage London 2012 Olympics.

The International Olympic Committee and the International Association of Athletics Federations have come up with measures to ensure minimal incidences regarding gender concerns at the London Olympics. The two bodies have introduced a new gender verification policy.

Writing about the new policy, Humanities and Health says:

At the 2012 Game, more than a decade after the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) abandoned routine sex testing for female athletes, a ‘sex testing’ policy will once again be in place. The change came in response to the case of Caster Semenya, the Sotuh African runner whose sex was first challenged by her competitors at the Berlin World Athletics Championships in 2009.

Following her victory at the 2009 World Championships, South African athlete Caster Semenya was subjected to gender testing. Image courtesy of www.erki.nl/

Following her victory at the 2009 World Championships, South African athlete Caster Semenya was subjected to gender testing. Image courtesy of www.erki.nl/

The post continues:

Ultimately, the debate started from Caster’s case demands us to reflect on the meanings and aims of sports, in other words, its ‘ethos’. Caster has qualified for the Olympics and focuses on gold after finishing second last year at World Track (Athletics) Championships in Daegu , South Korea

Redirect blog points out that the new gender verification policy looks at solely female athletes’ testosterone levels:

The Olympics evoke images for many around the world: an athlete with their nation’s flag draped around their shoulders, donning a gold medal around their neck. But as the London Games near, the IOC recently fixed its gaze below the belt, quietly issuing its new gender verification policy.

While there are several different criteria for determining one’s sex, the newly adopted policy looks at solely female athletes’ testosterone levels. Women whose test results fall within the normal male testosterone range will be banned from competition unless and until they submit to medical intervention

The blog raises serious questions about gender verification:

There is no tidy definition of gender. We tend to think of it in binary terms – male or female – but gender exists on a spectrum. As such, perhaps the IOC should look to include multiple measures of sex and gender in making their determination. A more comprehensive test that examines testosterone in addition to chromosomes and genitalia would be more invasive, but has the benefit of weighing multiple factors when determining athletes gender.

Is the IOC’s new policy imperfect? Sure. Is there a better way? Certainly. But at the end of the day, there is no perfect answer. There exists a need for gender verification and you have to draw the line somewhere. The Olympics have never been about universal inclusion. It is a privilege reserved for sport’s most elite. Athletes must comply with numerous other requirements before they can compete as Olympians – everything from age minimums, to time standards, to citizenship verification. Why not just approach gender verification as another step on the road to the games?

In conclusion, Theolympicgamesblancaemiliogonzalo sees improvement in gender equality at the Olympics:

Gender discrimination has always existed in sports, even during the Olympic Games. Anyway it’s something which is changing….

The IOC has taken this decision in order to manage properly the situation in Saudi Arabia. At the same time, women’s boxing has been add(ed) to the Summer Olympic Games to get equality regarding to the sports in which both male and female can participate.

This is part of our special coverage London 2012 Olympics.

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