More on gender testing in sports

Slate does some research into what might have prompted Indian runner Santhi Soundararajan to lose her Asian Games medal.

By Page Rockwell
December 23, 2006 12:28AM (UTC)
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A couple of timely follow-ups: Remember Santhi Soundararajan, the Indian athlete stripped of her silver medal from the Asian games because she failed a "gender test"? This week, Slate offered expanded explication on what such testing actually entails, and speculated that if Soundararajan has androgen-insensitivity syndrome, like numerous other athletes who've been flagged for sex testing in the past, her body would produce testosterone but would be unresponsive to the hormone. The Explainer notes, "since testosterone helps in building muscle and strength, a case of androgen insensitivity syndrome wouldn't give an XY-female athlete any kind of competitive advantage; if anything, it would be a liability." Of course, it's not clear whether Soundararajan has AIS, but the suggestion helps underscore the point that sex testing in sports is a dubious undertaking.

And it also sounds plenty invasive. As we noted last week, testing often involves chromosomal testing, gynecologic examination and diagnosis of hormone and gene disorders; Slate adds, "some athletes are called in for a complete exam after they give their urine sample during a doping test. Officials watch the whole process to make sure the athletes don't swap in someone else's pee, so they can flag anyone whose genitalia don't appear consistent with his or her stated gender." This description has me cringing for athletes with standard genitalia, to say nothing of the potential discomfort for athletes whose genitals are more unusual. You can see why gender-testing panels typically include a psychologist.


On a brighter note, we thought we'd remind everyone that today is Global Orgasm for Peace day. Organizers exhort peaceniks around the world to meditate on peace while enjoying an orgasm. We hope this Friday finds Broadsheet readers doing their part for the cause.

Page Rockwell

Page Rockwell is Salon's editorial project manager.

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