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Beyond ‘men’ and ‘women’: the fraught issue of Olympic gender testing

In June, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) stated that some athletes at the London Olympics, though legally female, may be subject to testing to see if their bodies produce an above-average quantity of “male” sex hormones, such as testosterone.

Avatar of Alessia Valenza

12th August 2012 09:49

Alessia Valenza

Competitors already undergo tests to rule out drugs that mimic these hormones, which affect things such as muscle mass. But this concern is over participants whose bodies naturally generate possible performance-enhancing features. If suspicion is raised, refusal to undergo testing will likely result in suspension even though the benefits of these elevated hormone levels is contentious.

Questions of who was allowed to compete in women’s events at the Olympics were first raised in 1968, out of the fear that there were men masquerading as women to gain advantage. Since then, athletes have been subjected to a range of tests, some humiliating and many invasive.

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