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"Punching harder than most blokes I know" ... Usanakorn receives instructions in her corner. Photo: Meredith O'Shea
Doubts raised over boxer's gender

in THAILAND, 20/07/2012

A female boxer from Thailand recorded "highly suspicious" levels of testosterone before a world title fight in Melbourne on Friday night, again plunging the sport into controversy.

With women's boxing about to debut at the London Olympics, Thai bantamweight Usanakorn Kokietgym was detected with three times the normal level of testosterone for a woman, amid widespread speculation about her gender.

The 24-year-old had been ordered to undergo hormone testing before fighting the Australian champion, Susie Ramadan, whose trainer, Barry Michael, had accused Usanakorn of punching "harder than most blokes I know".

After the bout, Usanakorn denied taking anabolic steroids or any other drugs when interviewed by the World Boxing Council secretary, Frank Quill, and two ringside physicians. Speaking with the help of an interpreter, Usanakorn refused comprehensive blood testing that would have proven her gender.

Mr Quill said a report, including all medical findings, would be forwarded to the Mexican headquarters of the WBC, which is expected to investigate the allegations.

The South African runner Caster Semenya was embroiled in a similar scandal in 2009, after winning the women's world 800-metre crown as an 18-year-old. Within hours of the race, the International Association of Athletic Federation announced that Semengya would be gender tested, which sparked public outrage from the South African government.

While the results were never made public, Semenya was cleared to run by the IAAF, which introduced new eligibility rules last year for female athletes with excessive male hormones.

The Australian Ringside Medicine Association chairman, Peter Lewis, said there were several explanations for Usanakorn's abnormal testosterone results. "There's a possibility that she started off as a man and has taken estrogen. Or we could be dealing with a woman who is pumped up on steroids. Or she could be a hermaphrodite where you have the genes of a male and the body of a female," Dr Lewis said. He said other medical conditions, including endocrine disorders could contribute to elevated hormone levels.

Lewis said Usanakorn was unlikely to face scrutiny from authorities in Thailand. "I have known of Thai boxers that have tested positive to HIV, hepatitis B and C in Australia, who have returned to Thailand and been allowed to continue fighting," he said.

Boxing promoter Brian Amatruda said the irregular test results had prompted him to notify the WBC before Friday night's fight.
She was asked several times if she wanted to clear her name and agree to comprehensive testing. She refused, which raises some doubts in my mind," Mr Amatruda said

He said Usanakorn was paid the loser's purse of $14,400, after losing the second fight of her professional career. Usanakorn could not be reached for comment.

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