Doping, Genes, and Gender

Date28 September 2018
Published date28 September 2018
AuthorHelen Jefferson Lenskyj University of Toronto, Canada
While doping dominates the attention of CAS panels and the
general public, important issues of gender and race/ethnicity
are also played out in two other related areas, identied in
CAS jurisprudence as eligibility and discipline. The following
discussion continues to investigate doping, with a focus on
testosterone-related controversies and their impacts on
gender-variant women and on racialized men. Finally, the
experiences of female and male athletes charged with bring-
ing themselves and/or their sport into disreputewill be
It is axiomatic in sport circles that a level playing eld
requires competitors to be divided into two strict categories:
male and female. Equestrian sports are the only Olympic
events in which men and women compete against each other.
Concepts of gender uidity and gender variance, widely
accepted in social and legal contexts outside of sport, are for
the most part rejected in high performance sport. All men are
faster and stronger than all women, according to the binary
thinking that characterizes most sport policy, so it would be
unfair to pit the sexes against one another. As in the war
against doping, the mainstream media support the majority
view that fairnessdemands draconian measures, and jour-
nalists can readily nd real womento complain about unfair
competition and invoke level playing eldarguments to sup-
port the demonization of gender-variant women. It is in this
context that female athletes with high levels of naturally
occurring testosterone (hyperandrogenism), and transgender
women who have transitioned from male to female struggle
for justice.
The stigmatization, harassment and violence that gender-
variant athletes have experienced are serious concerns. Many
scholarly analyses of these issues present convincing argu-
ments that the IAAFs and IOCs policies constitute gender
policing: a twenty-rst-century version of the invasive and
humiliating sex tests, starting with nude parades,to which
all female athletes were subject from the 1960s to 1999. Anti-
doping procedures introduced in the 1990s require that a
urine sample be produced under direct observation, with the
area of the athletes body from nipple to knee exposed, a pro-
cedure that women, in particular, often nd degrading and
distressing (Mazanov, 2016, p. 177). No longer is the goal to
prevent male athletes from masquerading as women, since
the anti-doping observer who supervises the production of
the urine sample will presumably recognize the difference.
Rather, it is to establish whether a female athlete is woman
enough(Ferguson-Smith & Bavington, 2014; Genel et al.,
2016; Schultz, 2012).
The moral crusade against gender-variant female athletes
parallels the general tone of the war against doping: that is,
itsaght that must be won at all costs. Like rationales for
harsh anti-doping measures and penalties, much of the
116 Gender, AthletesRights, and CAS
rhetoric about unfairness to normalfemale athletes conveys
the message that a few gender-variant women may have to
suffer for the greater good. That one woman, Indian runner
Santhi Soundararajan, attempted suicide after details of her
failed sex testwere leaked to the media was not sufcient, it
seems, to raise awareness of the human cost of these
A discussion of controversies over hyperandrogenism neces-
sarily begins by examining the assumption that testosterone
denes maleness and determines athletic prowess. As a result
of widespread acceptance of this awed reasoning, testoster-
one levels are at the core of most eligibility issues. Contrary
to the stereotypical labeling of testosterone as the male hor-
moneand estrogen as the female hormone,these hormones
are produced in both male and female bodies, but usually in
different proportions.
Recent research shows that sex-related differences in tes-
tosterone are lower among athletes than non-athletes, and
that there is complete overlap between the sexes (Healy et al.,
2014). These ndings should not come as a surprise to sport
scientists. Exercise physiology research dating back to the
1980s showed that athletes differed from the non-athlete
population on a number of measures, and, within the same
sport, differences in body size and composition accounted for
most sex differences. In terms of cardiovascular tness, male
and female athletes in the same sport shared more similarities
with one other than with their sedentary, sex-matched coun-
terparts (Drinkwater, 1984; OToole & Douglas, 1988).
Although countless other doping products have emerged
in the last few decades, anabolic steroids, which are synthetic
117Doping, Genes, and Gender

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