TL:DR - testosterone levels apparently make a big difference to performance. The IAAF had set up fairly arbitrary bands which they say are ‘normal’ for women.
There are suggestions that they will challenge a ruling which prevented them from doing that. This would apparently mean that some athletes would be forced to somehow reduce their testosterone levels in order to compete.
If testosterone levels are that defining, why suggest making people manipulate themselves with drugs or surgery rather than changing the competition categories from splitting by apparently fairly arbitrary gender classes to splitting by hormone bands?
Is the idea of corralling genders off away from each other so ingrained?
The thing that bugs me about this is that, okay, we know that this specific thing might make a woman a better athlete. What about men with excess testosterone? Don’t they have an advantage over other men? What if tomorrow we discover that low thyroid hormone makes you a faster runner? Or a gene that makes you sweat excessively? A quirk of your mitochondria?
There’s no “normal”. These women aren’t doping themselves. This is their bodies’ natural state, and if that makes them better at something well okay, maybe my double uterus makes ME better at something.
I suspect that it would have the frothing reactionaries out in force, which is the main reason it wouldn’t be tried; but it would be interesting to know, if such cultural considerations were not an issue, what sort of structure one would use along those lines:
You couldn’t have too many distinct bands, since each one would be another medal category, another competitor or team participating countries would have to field; and there are finite reserves of both audience patience and competitor resources; but you would want enough of them that people are generally competing with not-too-markedly-dissimilar competitors.
I would be curious to know how many bands that would end up being(and whether there would be additional complexity imposed by team sports medicine and the endocrinologists identifying other relevant factors, so that a ‘band’ would actually have to be a somewhat irregularly shaped region in a multidimensional space of assorted parameters):
Among sports that actually do something like this, boxing seems to be on the high end(currently 10 different weight classes, I think); I don’t know if that reflects a judgement on amounts of extra weight that just aren’t important enough to bother with; the need to keep the bands wide enough that a given athlete doesn’t change weight classes every other meal; or if they’d actually like to have 25 classes but the logistics are problematic.
As for “corralling genders off away from each other”, in a lot of sports that basically depends on whether you want to have any female medalists or not. The 800m looks like it would be one of the ‘or not’ sports. For the 2012 and 2016 800m(which were the ones Semenya competed in); 2012 women’s times ranged from 1:57.23 to 2:00.19 (after a couple of russian disqualifications, one of which would have been 1:56.19); men’s times ranged from 1:40.91 to 1:43.77. in 2016, women were between 1:55.28 and 1:59.57, men between 1:42.15 and 1:46.15.
I’m not quite sure why the IOC has such an interest in Semenya’s situation(she was only .3 seconds faster than the non-disqualified russian; and slightly over a second slower than the disqualified one in 2012; and 1.2 seconds faster than the next finisher in 2016) specifically: they can’t exactly be surprised that Olympic level athletes are a roundup of assorted wildly atypical performance characteristics; and I’m unclear on why they seem so interested in drawing the line there(especially when there is still such a delta between the men’s and women’s results overall: Why would you get a ‘not-woman’ designation for a time that is 1.2 seconds ahead of the next woman; but 13.13 seconds behind the male medalist?)
On one hand, there’s a real difference between male and female performance as a whole in most sports - if the majority of them were collapsed, women would almost never medal again.
On the other hand, AFAIK, high testosterone males are not excluded from the games, right? So why should women be?
I suppose I’d agree with this if it were equally applied to both sexes (equal in terms of enforcement, not testosterone values). Athletes of both genders are under enough pressure to enhance their bodies chemically - If you don’t regulate those who happen to internally produce more performance enhancing compounds than the norm, then you just increase that pressure further on the have-nots.
I’d probably look at the Paralympics for pointers. They have all sorts of athletes competing in the same event under different classifications. That seems to work out ok.
That was my (only half in jest) point. If this is really such a big thing (as in testosterone levels are the major factor in sporting performance), then why insist on some arbitrary limit for ‘women’ rather than splitting competition by testosterone levels.
If it’s not such a massive impact on performance, then the insistence on regulating hormone levels continues to look more about policing people’s expectations of gender and appropriate appearance than about athletic fairness.
As @ficuswhisperer says what really is the difference between naturally higher levels of a hormone and the other natural advantages some athletes have over others?
We don’t split Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps off and say they can’t compete in races with ‘normal’ humans (or that they have surgery to shorten their limbs, etc.).
The way the IAAF insist on trying to do it with female athletes just keeps looking worse and worse.
The olympics are brought you you by Coca-Cola. Do you think coca-cola wants a universe with three or more choices in it? Both Coke and Pepsi are invested in the future of Coke v. Pepsi. THATS THE GAME. None of these edge cases. Coke or Pepsi, you are one or the other or you’re going to be. What use are you otherwise?