Even playing field

Female athletes with “too much testosterone” are facing scrutiny at the Olympics

(CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP/Getty Images)

Among all of the female track athletes competing for the gold in Rio is at least one woman who was banned from the sport temporarily because her body naturally produces too much testosterone. The athlete, who is not being identified by The Associated Press, was once told by the International Association of Athletics Federations that she would not be able to compete against other women with lower testosterone levels without surgery or chemical treatment. She had a condition called hyperandrogenism, which causes high hormone levels, and wasn’t even aware of her testosterone levels until they were noted by the IAAF during a doping test. She was stunned, according to the report.

“She couldn’t understand. It was shock,” her coach said. “I said, ‘You’re not alone. There are others.’”

The runner’s former coach said she eventually decided to undergo testosterone-curbing treatment. She had to travel abroad to other countries for testing and treatment and was unable to compete while her testosterone levels were high. Other women have undergone surgery to remove parts of their clitoris or sexual organs, according to the report, to reduce their levels.

At least 14 other women have gone through similar ordeals, and an estimated seven out of every 1,000 elite female athletes may have the condition.  One such athlete, Dutee Chand, challenged the IAAF’s rules in the Court of Arbitration for Sport after she was suspended and her medical history became public. The CAS has since suspended the IAAF’s rules, giving the organization until 2017 to prove that high testosterone in women really does allow them an unfair advantage, and in the meantime allowing women with the condition, including the unnamed athlete, to compete again for Olympic gold.

Read the full story at The Associated Press.

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