Caster Semenya and Africa’s Controversial Politics of Testosterone

Just recently, a well-known Olympic gold medalist, Caster Semenya, received appalling news about the use of Testogen 2019. The news is specifically concentrated on her body. The details about this news have slowly made to the International Association of Athletics Federation, which is the governing entity when it comes to racing. This had shaped a controversial rule that will later determine the fate of other athletes.

Testosterone Suppressant and Caster Semenya

Before competing in the women’s division of 800-meter and 1,500-meter race, Semenya has to take a testosterone suppressant, following the IAAF rule that the Court of Arbitration upheld. This drug works differently than testogen since it prevents testosterone from mediating its effects in the body. This decision has immediately rippled out other athletes that would partake in the running competition. According to Athletics Kenya, two of their female sprinters were dropped out of the team for the IAAF World Relays championship because of their blood tests, revealing that they have high levels of testosterone.

However, the disagreement doesn’t only involve these testosterone suppressants. Even the medical status indicating that Caster Semenya was an intersex person was revealed to the press way back in 2009, though Semenya doesn’t want herself to be referred to as an intersex person, saying that she is a woman, and she is fast. The bottom line is that compared to other average women, Semenya’s body produces more testosterone. Seeing the case, some of her opponents and other athlete experts firmly believe that this gives her an advantage.

The Science Behind the Issue

Although testosterone has a role when it comes to boosting an athlete’s performance, it’s not always the sole factor for this. It’s not true that athletes with higher testosterone level are always deemed as the winners in their respective competition. Even athletes with lower levels of testosterone can take the gold home. Seeing the science behind this is unresolved, several of Semenya’s defenders view the CAS’s ruling as the latest drumbeat in a wider aspect of a comeback against the people having a body that defies the common vision of womanhood.

Supporters even point out that these scientific-looking methods of parting genders from each other can be used as weapons against sexual and gender minorities like the intersex people. Hans Lindahl, the communications director at an intersex advocacy group called InterACT, states that science can be a tool and a method, but it would also depend on the person’s point of view on how he interprets science. He added that science and socially constructed categories, which include sexualities and gender, are difficult to clump together, and they simply don’t work.

Final Thoughts

Some women may have higher levels of testosterone in their body. For instance, those with PCOS eventually grow facial hair and maybe develop traits akin to those of a man. Determining womanhood based solely on testosterone levels could eventually bring unintentional effects to the wider classification of a woman across the globe. The case of Caster Semenya is entangled in a larger battle that involves who would be considered as a woman in modern society we live in and who isn’t.


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