Irish running legend, Sonia O’Sullivan has called for sporting bodies to withhold Intersex athletes medals
Sonia O’Sullivan, former international 5000m gold medalist, has put forward her opinions on intersex athletes in an article in the Irish Times today. She claims that currently, as they are allowed to compete with their natural genetic makeup, intersex athletes have an unfair advantage over the other women.
“In almost all those races I’ve seen so far, particularly in the Diamond League, it’s been very hard to accept that it’s a level playing field,” she says. “It’s through no fault of their own that these athletes have been born with more male genes and hormones than female; but this doesn’t mean they can simply be classified as women, and allowed to take part in women’s events.”
Sonia’s comments have largely been prompted by the recent the gold medal wins by Caster Semenya, the female South African athlete who was at the centre of an intersex controversy in 2009. Semenya was previously forced to withdraw from international competition while gender tests were conducted to determine her sex. Ultimately it was ruled that while she is a woman, she suffers from hyperandrogegism, which causes raised levels of testosterone. It was ruled that in order to compete she would have to undergo artificial testosterone lowering therapy.
However the policy of restricting the levels of testosterone in women was suspended in 2015 after it was challenged by an Indian sprinter. This suspension was delivered for two years while the International Association of Athletics Federations attempt to gather enough scientific evidence to support their claims about testosterone. This has allowed Semenya to compete again without undergoing the therapy.
O’Sullivan says she believes that allowing women with elevated testosterone levels to compete invalidates the results of legitimate women’s sporting events. She maintains that until a proper policy is outlined with regards to their status, the records, medals and prize money of intersex athletes should be withheld.
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