My comment on Britney Griner in a response to a piece in Psychology Today

Once we sweep aside all the sentimentality and extraneous issues,resentments, and name calling, we are still left with the issue of athletes having an unfair advantage, whether it comes from Mother Nature's laboratory or the BALCO laboratory. The whole world (witness the Tour de France) and especially America (Barry Bonds, etc.) want a level playing field even if it includes climbs in the alps. Fair advantages translate to talent and physical characteristics that stay within a certain domain. Height alone in basketball would be considered a fair advantage.

The Britney Griner case very much parallels that of Caster Semanya. When at the '09 world championships, the 18-year-old South African looked over her shoulder on the home stretch and pulled clear of the field with such placid ease that it made Usain Bolt seem tense in comparison, there were bound to be questions, just as there are with Mr. Griner. In the sport of track and field, one does not go from 2:04.23 to 1:55.45, winning the world title by two-and-a-half seconds, in a single season without questions.

Following the world championships, Semenya underwent another battery sex determination tests, the results of which were reported to show that while Semenya has external female genitalia, she has internal testes, no womb or ovaries, and elevated levels of testosterone, which would mean that she has what doctors call a disorder of sexual development, and has some traits that are typically associated with women and others that are typically associated with men. Semenya disappeared from competition for a year as rumors swirled about whether she would ever again be eligible to compete with women.

She was allowed to return even with the cloud hanging over her. Since her return, Semenya has won several races, but has not come within her Berlin time. She lost to her Russian rival in the last World championship. In other races, she also finished second or third but looked so effortless that spectators have suggested that she is holding back on purpose so as not to reignite controversy unitl the Olympics. Also many believe that in order to compete she and her coaches had to agree to some medical intervention to raise the level of physiological feminization (throttling back androgens).

Feminists and LGBT defenders, and I'm one, may hate this singling out of stellar athletes, but ethics require equity. Ranting and raving about historic abuses wont' make the problem go away. For the sake of Caster and Britney, the athletic regulatory bodies have to do a better job of setting the line.


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