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Has Sonia got it right about hyperandrogenism?

  • 12-04-2018 1:59pm
    #1
    Registered Users Posts: 2,062 ✭✭✭


    Irish Times Article today.

    Does the prospect of hormonal categories in women's racing seem viable? Its a very tough issue to resolve.
    Does it even need resolving? Is hyperandrogenism just another physical advantage like height or stride-length?


«134

Comments

  • Registered Users Posts: 240 ✭✭Pizzle


    I think the idea of competing in the same race but giving different sets of medals out for athletes with/out hyperandrogenism would really belittle the sport. I kind of feel hyperandrogenism is just a natural physical advantage that some athletes have. Taken to it's extreme, presumably there are also athletes who have hypoandrogenism...would it be fair to have a sub category/race for this too? I don't believe what Sonia is proposing works any better than the current system, it just seems an artificial way of solving the problem.


  • Registered Users Posts: 15,704 ✭✭✭✭RayCun


    Height and stride-length and % of fast-twitch fibres etc all exist on a spectrum with no clear lines of demarcation.

    When it comes to testosterone, you have 99.9% women within a particular range, men in another, very different range, and women with hyperandrogenism in a range that overlaps with men and not at all with other women.

    And testosterone is hugely important for athletics performance.


  • Registered Users Posts: 75 ✭✭chasingpaper


    Well it is nothing like stride length, which is a trainable quality. Height is not necessarily a physical advantage, there have been world record holders in running from very short to very tall. 
    Being male is clearly a physical advantage in terms of hormones and body structure for running. That is why men's records are all around 10-13% faster and why we have women's sport, otherwise women would not have anywhere to compete at a high level. 
    Assuming we want a women's category that category has to be defined. In the vast majority of cases this is not an issue.
    However, intersex athletes are an issue. They don't fit neatly into the definitions. I think it is unfair that most of elite 800m females in the world are losing medal opportunities, exposure, sponsorship etc to cater to an individual with a rare condition. I am not sure the IAAF sex tests on Semenya were published but I did read that Semenya has testes and a Y-chromosome. This does make Semenya male sex by most definitions.
    The exposure to the hormones impacts how the body develops through puberty, less widening of hips and accumulation of body fat that is associated with female puberty, additional growth hormone and muscle development. 
    Semenya did have to take hormones to reduce testosterone levels. This will not negate the advantages enjoyed during puberty. Also the testosterone limit for females has now been set to 10 nmol/L, when 99% of elite female athletes test lower than 3nmol/L. Could that rule also be abused  by competitors doping to try to match the inflated testosterone limit? It is a mess. 
    Maybe a category in para-sport would be suitable? We already have many categories, but the most well known are the elite male and elite female able bodied athletes. Some para-athletes are better some elite able bodied counterparts but do not compete in those competitions. (German long jumper, wheelchair athletes).


  • Registered Users Posts: 6,340 ✭✭✭TFBubendorfer


    Maybe a category in para-sport would be suitable? We already have many categories, but the most well known are the elite male and elite female able bodied athletes. Some para-athletes are better some elite able bodied counterparts but do not compete in those competitions. (German long jumper, wheelchair athletes).

    That is utterly demeaning to women with hyperandrogenism. They are not disabled and to suggest we should fob them off to para-sports is outrageous.

    If they feel as female from childhood on, they should be allowed to compete as female. To tell then "you're not a proper woman, you can't compete here" is abuse and discrimination.

    Yes, they do get an advantage when it comes to running. Tough. Get over it. So does having the right ratio of fast/slow twitch fibres, or a strong mind, or a hundred other variables that impact on performance. Would you ban runners with long legs because they have an advantage over the steeplechase?


  • Registered Users Posts: 507 ✭✭✭Sesame



    Yes, they do get an advantage when it comes to running. Tough. Get over it.

    Hmm, will that apply to any transgender women who want to compete too in the future? If they identify as female, the other females who are born female will just have to "get over it"?

    And what about all other sports?
    Those where the male body has strength or speed advantages. Will those who are born female be wiped out of the female sports category to cater for those who feel like competing as female but are born male?

    I completely support people who wish to be their true selves and identify as whatever sex/gender they wish, but not to the detriment of the already disadvantaged female competitors who have to put up with less prize money and glory than their male counterparts.


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  • Closed Accounts Posts: 221 ✭✭Safiri


    That is utterly demeaning to women with hyperandrogenism. They are not disabled and to suggest we should fob them off to para-sports is outrageous.

    If they feel as female from childhood on, they should be allowed to compete as female. To tell then "you're not a proper woman, you can't compete here" is abuse and discrimination.

    Yes, they do get an advantage when it comes to running. Tough. Get over it. So does having the right ratio of fast/slow twitch fibres, or a strong mind, or a hundred other variables that impact on performance. Would you ban runners with long legs because they have an advantage over the steeplechase?

    Don't agree with the para bit either but would wholeheartedly agree with everything else that chasingpaper said. We live in an age of PC gone mad even to the extent that people think that athletes with no ovaries and internal testicles should be allowed to compete with and destroy biological females if they identify as female. It protects the very small and rare minority at the expense of the overwhelming majority. I can identify as a female in that case(still wouldn't win anything major) but I'd become a threat at road races to pick up prizes and wins. A more extreme example but Would you call this fair and would you feel the same level of sympathy? My guess is no and this is why I feel this way on this ongoing issue.

    It is not discrimation to say that an athlete who does not reach the requirements of a biological female should not compete, that is ridiculous. Most people have no issue with how these athletes identify as a gender. The issue is that they are allowed to compete as females when that is not the case. Think about athletes like Melissa Bishop who could have an Olympic medal but doesn't because of this issue. It is a farce that they are competing in the same race. But better still, forget about emotion and let the cold hard science speak for itself. The scientific issue is that these athletes are neither biologically female or male but people's need to group as either is getting in the way. Nature is not as simple as it is percieved to be when it comes to sex.


  • Registered Users Posts: 75 ✭✭chasingpaper


    That is utterly demeaning to women with hyperandrogenism. They are not disabled and to suggest we should fob them off to para-sports is outrageous.

    If they feel as female from childhood on, they should be allowed to compete as female. To tell then "you're not a proper woman, you can't compete here" is abuse and discrimination.

    Yes, they do get an advantage when it comes to running. Tough. Get over it. So does having the right ratio of fast/slow twitch fibres, or a strong mind, or a hundred other variables that impact on performance. Would you ban runners with long legs because they have an advantage over the steeplechase?

    Biologically they are not female sex by definitions of the sport. Tough. Get over it. :)

    I am saying there are physical advantages to being male that cannot be disputed, Semenya has benefitted and continues to benefit from those advantages. So Semenya should be competing against people who have had similar advantages (men). 
    We group athletics into male and female. Yes, there are a myriad of factors affecting performance but we have chosen to have female sports as a category. This to give half our population a category in which to compete against people with similar biological traits. I think this is a good thing. 
    Should we just have open sports? Where would women compete then? 
    Not sure we should bring gender into the discussion as that is not defined categorically, sport is split on biological sex basis. Unfortunately intersex people don't clearly fit in here. Is it better to have a separate category or continue to make a mockery of the women's 800m? Even as a spectacle the event has been ruined. 
    I suggested para sport as it already exists and has a multitude of categories. Some of the para-athletes are hugely athletic and skilled and are anything but disabled. They too deserve respect.


  • Registered Users Posts: 2,199 ✭✭✭Keeks


    If they feel as female from childhood on, they should be allowed to compete as female. To tell then "you're not a proper woman, you can't compete here" is abuse and discrimination.

    This reminded of a quote from this article:

    https://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/29/sports/win-for-dutee-chand-but-line-between-male-and-female-athletes-remains-blurred.html
    “Now I’m really worried about the future of women in sports because if we push this argument, anyone declaring a female gender can compete as a woman. We’re moving toward one big competition, and the very predictable result of that competition is that there will be no women winners.”


  • Registered Users Posts: 15,704 ✭✭✭✭RayCun


    Safiri wrote: »
    It is not discrimation to say that an athlete who does not reach the requirements of a biological female should not compete, that is ridiculous.

    What are the 'requirements of a biological female'?

    It is not as clearcut as people imagine. There are people who are to external appearances male, but have XX chromosomes, for example.

    Biologically they are not female sex by definitions of the sport. Tough. Get over it. :)

    The definitions of the sport have to be justifiable and non-arbitrary. And athletes have to have some reasonable privacy too.


  • Registered Users Posts: 5,370 ✭✭✭pconn062


    I don't get involved in this discussion as it's usually a complete shitshow, but all I'll say is that I feel very sorry for all the 800m women trying to compete with Semenya, Niyonsaba and Wambui. It must make it all seem like a complete waste of time.


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  • Closed Accounts Posts: 221 ✭✭Safiri


    RayCun wrote: »
    What are the 'requirements of a biological female'?

    It is not as clearcut as people imagine. There are people who are to external appearances male, but have XX chromosomes, for example.

    That is impossible to answer to draw a definitive line, if I could, I wouldn't be here answering it as I'd be lowering the law bill of the IAAF with evidence. You are talking about millions of possible genetic mutations to get an all covering line on this. I never said it was clearcut though in general, the last few lines of my post say quite the contrary in that people need to group others and that nature isn't that simple when it comes to sex.

    But when it comes to having internal testes and no ovaries, I don't think a definitive line is needed, the probability level is so high. Testosterone readings aren't the only determinent either, it's just a general marker the IAAF are using to cover this as probability dictates as well. That's why this case with CAS has been drawn out for so long.


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,338 ✭✭✭eyrie


    pconn062 wrote: »
    I don't get involved in this discussion as it's usually a complete shitshow, but all I'll say is that I feel very sorry for all the 800m women trying to compete with Semenya, Niyonsaba and Wambui. It must make it all seem like a complete waste of time.

    I don't begin to have an answer to how to deal with this because it is so complex, but just want to add to the above comment that I also feel extremely sorry for Semenya. She didn't ask for any of this and to have international news and attention directed at extremely personal issues to do with your body when you're only a teenager is horrific, and potentially seriously damaging to your mental health.


  • Registered Users Posts: 5,370 ✭✭✭pconn062


    eyrie wrote: »
    I don't begin to have an answer to how to deal with this because it is so complex, but just want to add to the above comment that I also feel extremely sorry for Semenya. She didn't ask for any of this and to have international news and attention directed at extremely personal issues to do with your body when you're only a teenager is horrific, and potentially seriously damaging to your mental health.

    Yes, that may be true but Semenya also has the ability to carve out a very successful and lucrative career for herself.


  • Registered Users Posts: 4,807 ✭✭✭skyblue46


    Safiri wrote: »
    Don't agree with the para bit either but would wholeheartedly agree with everything else that chasingpaper said. We live in an age of PC gone mad even to the extent that people think that athletes with no ovaries and internal testicles should be allowed to compete with and destroy biological females if they identify as female. It protects the very small and rare minority at the expense of the overwhelming majority. I can identify as a female in that case(still wouldn't win anything major) but I'd become a threat at road races to pick up prizes and wins. A more extreme example but Would you call this fair and would you feel the same level of sympathy? My guess is no and this is why I feel this way on this ongoing issue.

    On this topic I got a Runners World mail today linking to this article. https://www.runnersworld.com/news/a19742832/boston-marathon-policies-transgender-runners/

    There are some rules which you would need to adhere to to reclassify as female. I take your point at the same time. I have no doubt that some female prizes have already been won in this country by trans athletes at local level. I would honestly love to hear what some of the female posters on here would feel if they lost out on a county, provincial or national medal to a trans athlete. Maybe it's men that worry about it more than the female runners?

    Here's the link to the IOC rules which I think are in line with the IAAF...https://stillmed.olympic.org/Documents/Commissions_PDFfiles/Medical_commission/2015-11_ioc_consensus_meeting_on_sex_reassignment_and_hyperandrogenism-en.pdf


  • Registered Users Posts: 10,414 ✭✭✭✭Murph_D


    Worth pointing out, because it’s a seperate issue, that Semenya is not transgender. That’s a different argument.

    Furthermore, the ‘suspicion’ that she has internal testes is a recurring rumour based on a 9-year old story in an Australian tabloid. From the New York Times:

    Nor could it be verified, as reported in 2009 in The Daily Telegraph of Australia, that Semenya had internal testes and three times the testosterone level of a typical woman.

    Source: https://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/08/20/sports/caster-semenya-800-meters.html

    I would suggest that if the New York Times, a paper that actually devotes resources to fact checking and story verification (and not just using online sources for same) can’t verify this rumour, that it should not enter the argument.

    What Sonia O’Sullivan is suggesting is basically a shift from categorization by sex to categorization by testosterone levels - and her discussion is limited to naturally occurring testosterone levels in non-trans people.

    Sounds like a reasonable suggestion to explore.


  • Registered Users Posts: 4,807 ✭✭✭skyblue46


    Yes I'm sorry I was straying off topic. Apologies to the OP.


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,605 ✭✭✭ultrapercy


    pconn062 wrote: »
    I don't get involved in this discussion as it's usually a complete shitshow, but all I'll say is that I feel very sorry for all the 800m women trying to compete with Semenya, Niyonsaba and Wambui. It must make it all seem like a complete waste of time.

    Its one of those rare situations in life when I feel equally sorry for everyone involved.


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,371 ✭✭✭TheAnalyst_


    eyrie wrote: »
    I don't begin to have an answer to how to deal with this because it is so complex, but just want to add to the above comment that I also feel extremely sorry for Semenya. She didn't ask for any of this and to have international news and attention directed at extremely personal issues to do with your body when you're only a teenager is horrific, and potentially seriously damaging to your mental health.

    It is tough on her but also if she didn't have these issues where would she be in running terms? Would she have had the experience of travelling the world and competing in these top events?

    There are people that are genetically gifted in the normal sense and then there are those that are not but who train like dogs but never come near the elite level. I'd have more sympathy with them.


  • Registered Users Posts: 10,414 ✭✭✭✭Murph_D


    There are people that are genetically gifted in the normal sense and then there are those that are not but who train like dogs but never come near the elite level. I'd have more sympathy with them.

    I don’t think those people who are not genetically gifted and train hard worry about not being an elite, though. They make the best with what they have, perhaps succeeding at provincial or county level. I don’t think they want sympathy for not having elevated levels of testosterone or anything else. I also would suggest that Semenya, despite her unusual natural advantage, trains damn hard too, by the way!


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 221 ✭✭Safiri


    Murph_D wrote: »
    Worth pointing out, because it’s a seperate issue, that Semenya is not transgender. That’s a different argument.

    Furthermore, the ‘suspicion’ that she has internal testes is a recurring rumour based on a 9-year old story in an Australian tabloid. From the New York Times:

    Nor could it be verified, as reported in 2009 in The Daily Telegraph of Australia, that Semenya had internal testes and three times the testosterone level of a typical woman.

    Source: https://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/08/20/sports/caster-semenya-800-meters.html

    I would suggest that if the New York Times, a paper that actually devotes resources to fact checking and story verification (and not just using online sources for same) can’t verify this rumour, that it should not enter the argument.

    What Sonia O’Sullivan is suggesting is basically a shift from categorization by sex to categorization by testosterone levels - and her discussion is limited to naturally occurring testosterone levels in non-trans people.

    Sounds like a reasonable suggestion to explore.

    I was avoiding names as the athlete you mentioned was not the only case in the last few years. The New York Times should do some research on Laraine Lane as they seem out of the loop. It's also incredible to think that Semenya did not have levels 3 times that of a normal woman as we know from her performance during the years before Dutee Chand appealed that she fell off a cliff performance wise and her remergance coinciding with that appeal would have needed at least more than 3 times the typical womans level(which is 3nmol/l compared to atleast 10nmol/l to be required to use testosterone inhibitors) and were probably much higher judging by her huge drop in performance. The New York times may not be able to print between the lines for fear of libel but all the evidence is their in my opinion from reading between the lines if you followed the case closely over the years and other cases revolving around it.


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  • Registered Users Posts: 10,414 ✭✭✭✭Murph_D


    Safiri wrote: »
    I was avoiding names as the athlete you mentioned was not the only case in the last few years. The New York Times should do some research on Laraine Lane as they seem out of the loop. It's also incredible to think that Semenya did not have levels 3 times that of a normal woman as we know from her performance during the years before Dutee Chand appealed that she fell off a cliff performance wise and her remergance coinciding with that appeal would have needed at least more than 3 times the typical womans level(which is 3nmol/l compared to atleast 10nmol/l to be required to use testosterone inhibitors) and were probably much higher judging by her huge drop in performance. The New York times may not be able to print between the lines for fear of libel but all the evidence is their in my opinion from reading between the lines if you followed the case closely over the years and other cases revolving around it.

    I’m just pointing out that the results of the 2009 gender test were never published. Doing your own maths on her performance levels is interesting, but speculative and impossible to correlate with actual testosterone levels. But anyway there is no dispute that she has high testosterone levels, and that this gives her an advantage. The remark about internal testes - one of many potential physiological features of women with this natural condition - is irrelevant. It’s just an unnecessary lurid detail, unverified, based on a comment in a newspaper about what the gender test was ‘believed’ to have revealed. Whether it’s true or not is irrelevant - internal testes do not bestow an unfair advantage seperate from the (naturally occurring) testosterone level. Highlighting intersex physiology is just an attempt to ‘unnaturalise’ a natural condition which is actually quite common in the part of South Africa where Semenya was born.

    That’s all I’m trying to add to the discussion.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 221 ✭✭Safiri


    Murph_D wrote: »
    I’m just pointing out that the results of the 2009 gender test were never published. Doing your own maths on her performance levels is interesting, but speculative and impossible to correlate with actual testosterone levels. But anyway there is no dispute that she has high testosterone levels, and that this gives her an advantage. The remark about internal testes - one of many potential physiological features of women with this natural condition - is irrelevant. It’s just an unnecessary lurid detail, unverified, based on a comment in a newspaper about what the gender test was ‘believed’ to have revealed. Whether it’s true or not is irrelevant - internal testes do not bestow an unfair advantage seperate from the (naturally occurring) testosterone level. Highlighting intersex physiology is just an attempt to ‘unnaturalise’ a natural condition which is actually quite common in the part of South Africa where Semenya was born.

    That’s all I’m trying to add to the discussion.

    Her own uncle commented on the gender test as well as there being controversy around Laraine Lane. Having male sex organs is not unnaturalising the situation, it is driving home the point that just because someone identifies as a female doesn't make it ok. They think a high testosterone level is just an advantaged female like a height comparison when that is not the truth.

    As for the testosterone levels; we know she had to have had atleast over 3 times the levels of a typical woman because the IAAF threshold is over 3 times the level of a typical woman. It is not speculation and is a fact I used to descredit the new york times article you linked. You can take the one sentence where I shared my belief and missed all the evidence that was contrary to the article you posted. If the New york times article is quoted as saying there is no source on her high levels; where did you get it from? Would this not be speculation on your part? How do you even know she has
    Hyperandrogenism?

    I'm going on what I know about the sport and history of the case and not a single hastely read article. I think my points are valid and are backed up by evidence to suggest it is a solid theory. To say that internal testes do not bestow an advantage to a female outside of androgen production is an oxymoron and just a way to devalue the point without actually arguing the fact. What came first, the chicken or the egg?


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,803 ✭✭✭hawkwing




  • Registered Users Posts: 306 ✭✭Seesee


    As a woman I think it's cheating and feel particularly bad for female athletes who may lose out on sports scholarships, this is already happening in the US and may happen here too.


  • Registered Users Posts: 12,844 ✭✭✭✭average_runner


    If you have female chromosome's your a female, if you have male chromosome's then your a male.

    It's a simple as that. You can change your body etc, but your chromosome's determine your sex and can't be changed.


  • Registered Users Posts: 15,704 ✭✭✭✭RayCun


    Seesee wrote: »
    As a woman I think it's cheating and feel particularly bad for female athletes who may lose out on sports scholarships, this is already happening in the US and may happen here too.

    I don't think it's cheating. It's the way she was born, not something she chose.

    But I do think a line has to be drawn somewhere to protect women's sports, and testosterone levels are a good choice because the benefits of higher levels of testosterone are obvious, and there is a large gap between male and female testosterone levels.


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,919 ✭✭✭simongurnick


    Is Semenya the only example of this? And if there are others, are they all winning at their respective levels in comparison to her success?


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,773 ✭✭✭PowerToWait


    That is utterly demeaning to women with hyperandrogenism. They are not disabled and to suggest we should fob them off to para-sports is outrageous.

    The tone of your post is fairly demeaning to those involved in para sport and nothing short of outrageous. Fobbed off indeed.


  • Registered Users Posts: 8,625 ✭✭✭corks finest


    Lady Sonia got it right though


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  • Registered Users Posts: 15,704 ✭✭✭✭RayCun


    Is Semenya the only example of this? And if there are others, are they all winning at their respective levels in comparison to her success?

    The three medallists in the women's 800m at the last Olympics are believed to have conditions that lead to high testosterone levels.


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