A few years ago, South African runner Caster Semenya made waves for having an ambiguous gender, igniting a controversy about appropriate standards for sports that are separated by sex. A similar controversy may be ready to erupt on a much larger scale.
Four Olympic athletes who competed at the London games as women have been found to have the genetic makeup of men, according to the International Business Times. The athletes’ identities remain anonymous, but they were found to have XY chromosomes rather than XX. Additionally, all four are said to have had “internal male testes,” a disorder which affects one in every 4,500 people.
French scientists say that the athletes, all between ages 18 to 21, were referred to them by International Association of Athletics Federations after testing for abnormal levels of testosterone. The athletes were said to have testes removed surgically, and were allowed to compete afterwards. Male-looking genitalia may also have been removed.
“The surgeons have neutered these individuals,” said Dr. Gedis Grudzinskas of London Bridge Hospital. “They have castrated them by removing the gonads, by which I mean their male testes, and they’ve had gender reassignment surgery. You could do that to any man.”
The controversy in this case is twofold. For one, Grudzinkas says that, if such athletes are not banned from future competition, it could open up athletes to abuse. Moreover, the spirit of fair play in single-gender competitions is also being called into question, as women with elevated levels of testosterone and other male hormones can grow more muscle mass than other women typically can.