The rules governing Olympians send a disturbing message to female athletes, especially black athletes.


This is a column by Morgan Campbell, who writes opinions for CBC Sports. For more information on the CBC comments section, please refer to the FAQ.

In the track and field competition held in Poland last week, Christine Mboma won the women’s 400m championship with a time of 48.54 seconds, the fastest time in the world this year. If you haven’t heard of her before that fast run, that’s normal. Mboma is an 18-year-old genius from Namibia and a newcomer to the European circuit, where veteran celebrities participate in the race, and her timekeeping has set a new world record for runners under the age of 20.

Two months ago, another Namibian teenager, Beatrice Masilingi, ran 400 meters 49.53 meters in a small race in Zambia. That time is still the seventh fastest time in the world this season-1.3 seconds faster than any Canadian in 2021.

These two times, running so close by such a young runner from the same country attracted people’s attention. After all, Namibia is not a track and field powerhouse like Kenya. The country has only trained one Olympic medal winner-sprinter Frankie Fredericks (Frankie Fredericks). Donovan Bailey (100 meters) and Michael Johnson (200) in Atlanta in 1996.

The result also aroused suspicion from officials of the World Athletics Federation, who sent doctors to Namibia so that the two 18-year-olds could receive a “medical evaluation.” These tests showed that neither of the runners took stimulants, which both of them already knew.But the examination found that both women’s bodies would produce enough natural testosterone Violation of the World Athletics Federation’s complex rules on hormones.

Women-and only women-whose natural testosterone levels exceed the limit set by the IAAF in 2018 are banned from participating in races between 400 meters and 1 mile, and face choices. They can take drugs to lower their natural testosterone, Seek a long list of side effects Follow the guidelines of world athletics. Or they can switch events, even if this puts them at a competitive disadvantage.

Mboma and Masilingi chose to drop to 200 meters. Sports fans in the middle might associate the words “testosterone” and “allowed restriction” with deliberate and illegal doping, believing that well-intentioned rule enforcement caught a pair of cheaters . From a distance, the IAAF seems to have restored the competitive integrity of a high-profile event before the Tokyo Olympics.

Watch | Bring in a panel to discuss the latest hormone testing ban for runners in Namibia:

Morgan Campbell joined Dave Zirin and Meghan McPeak to discuss the latest hormone testing ban by Namibian runners Christine Mboma and Beatrice Masilingi, who were banned from participating in the 400m Olympics due to their high levels of natural testosterone. 9:10

Except for the qualitative difference between anabolic steroids and naturally occurring testosterone. The default hormone settings of Mboma and Masilingi are no more unfair than Kawhi Leonard’s giant hand or the sharp eyes of Major League Baseball. Places that ordinary players see with 20/13 eyesight. If you can imagine Major League Baseball forcing left-handers to hit first base with 100 mph heat and 20/10 vision, arguing that their natural tools are unfair to ordinary players, then you can understand the IAAF’s How random and targeted the testosterone guidelines are unfair. Moreover, if you realize that the rules for sharp-eyed left-handed pitchers will artificially create a shallow talent pool in the MLB, you can realize that the IAAF’s women’s testosterone rules govern the field, but will reduce the number of products on the track. .

Then, Mboma and Massiringhi were forced to participate in their second best event, which is the ongoing and ultimately successful sport of the World Athletics Federation aimed at eliminating South Africa’s 800m athlete Castel Semenya. Collateral damage. After several false starts, the testosterone guidelines were codified in 2018. Although the world’s track and field leaders have never specified that the rules are for Semenya, they only apply to the competitions Semenya is good at, although the organization’s own research has found the strongest correlation between natural testosterone and women’s pole vault and hammer throws. Performance.

Neither event has a testosterone upper limit, which shows that the IAAF rule-makers understand that correlation does not always equal causation. If the simple existence of natural testosterone, rather than the integration of a series of attributes and skills, makes the performance of female pole vaulters higher than their peers, then the World Athletics Federation will manage the event like it manages 800 people. The rules only apply to Semenya’s gamesIt seems that a hormone that is sufficient to appear in every vertebrate on the planet is also specific enough to distinguish between a flat 400-meter hurdle and a 400-meter hurdle.

Caster Semenya on the far left and Francine Niyonsaba on the far right are not allowed to participate in their favorite 800-meter project because of their high testosterone levels. (2017 Getty Images)

An excuse to keep Semenya out

But the rules are not about testosterone. Instead, they use hormones as an excuse to take the two-time Olympic champion, Semenya, the fastest half-mile runner of her generation, and her peers who run faster than the real women believed by the rulers. It should be turned away. The 2018 guidelines also drove two other Rio medalists Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi and Margaret Wambui of Kenya out of their preferred competition.

Both Semenya and Niyonsaba moved further away. Niyonsaba qualified for Tokyo Between 5,000 and 10,000, while Semenya fell to 5,000.Since 2019, Wambui has not participated in important competitions, and recently called on the World Athletics Federation to create Third gender category Rather than forcing women like her to choose between the best competition and non-toxic competition.

Watch l discuss IAAF’s attempt to limit Semenya’s testosterone levels:

Anson Henry and Rob Pizzo of CBC Sports discussed the controversy surrounding the IAAF’s efforts to limit testosterone levels in female runners, which is aimed at Caster Semenya. 2:49

If you have noticed that the well-known runners who are on the wrong side of the testosterone rules are black women from sub-Saharan Africa, please wait a moment. Indian sprinter Dutee Chand tripped over an early version of the rule and re-qualified in 2015 with the help of a Toronto lawyer. Expanding our scope, we still see a rule that has a disproportionate impact on women of color in the global south.

If we are willing to expand the benefits of doubt, we can treat this trend as an unfortunate coincidence. Otherwise, we can regard the testosterone rule as yet another half-baked rule formulated in a toxic place where sexism and racism overlap.Its mechanism is different, but its spirit is the same as that of FINA’s rules and regulations. Design a swimming cap that fits black women’s hair, Or the International Olympic Committee cracked down on Protests on the podium and Black Lives Matter equipment.

Either way, these rules send a disturbing message to young female athletes, especially black girls.

Run fast, but not too fast, so as not to exceed the expectations of some gatekeepers, arouse their suspicion and prompt them to take action against you. Behave too fast, officials may ask you to take medicine to slow down. But not marijuana. They will also ban you.

Looking at the overall situation, the audience lost. We won’t see how the teenage prodigy Mboma can compete with established professional players like Allyson Felix and Shaunnae Miller-Uibo in their favorite games.

The exercise is lost. The Olympic finals should be the best and the best duel. If the owner of the fastest time in the world can’t even queue up, it’s impossible.

Mboma and Massiringhi suffered the most. Even the World Athletics Federation will admit that none of them cheated. It was written from the rules, and it was even more embarrassing.



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