Gender testing in sport

Gender verification is used in sports to ensure that people are qualified to participate in gender-restricted events.

Gender verification is used in sports to ensure that people are qualified to participate in gender-restricted events.

The main goal is to prevent men from masquerading as women in events which are only open to women, under the assumption that male athletes would have an unfair advantage.

In international sport, it has been used since the 1960s. It originally started in response to concerns that the Soviet Union was entering male athletes as women, and early gender testing was crude: the athletes were simply ordered to strip for examination.

The discredited sex chromatin test, which identifies only the sex chromosome component of gender and is thus misleading, was abandoned in 1991 by the IAAF in favour of medical checks .

It does not address the issue of people with sexual differentiation disorders. There are a number of combinations of the X and Y chromosome, such as XXY, XXYY, or XXX. Individuals with abnormalities on the sex chromosome are referred to as "intersexual."

One famous Polish athlete, Ewa Klobukowska, had just such an abnormality and was banned from competition, despite doctors agreeing she had no unfair advantage. Critics of gender verification point out she was essentially unfairly discriminated against because of a medical condition she knew nothing about prior to her failed gender test.

Because of intersexuality, gender verification usually includes a panel of people, including an endocrinologist, a gynecologist, a psychologist, and an internal medicine specialist. Athletes who fail gender tests can be examined by this panel to determine whether or not they should be allowed to compete as women.

Opponents of gender verification believe the issue could be resolved more simply during routine doping tests, when athletes provide a urine sample under supervision. Athletes with the wrong genitalia would be identified, while intersexual individuals would not be targeted. - www.wisegeek.com

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