New Guidelines issued by the IOC (International Olympic Committee) offer a new policy for the participation of transgender athletes in sports competitions. According to the new policy, transgender athletes should be given the option to compete without having to undergo genital re-construction surgery. Female to Male (F-M) transgender athletes will be allowed to compete without further limitations, however Male to Female (M-F) transgender athletes would be allowed to compete only after receiving hormonal treatment intended to keep testosterone levels under a fixed threshold for at least a year before the competition. This is a significant change to the previous guidelines, which recommended that transgender athletes be eligible to compete only after a genital re-construction surgery and two years of hormonal therapy. The committee explained that the change of policy was due to “current scientific, social and legal attitudes on transgender issues”. The overriding objective of all policies according to the IOC was ‘fair competition’, so whereas genital appearance was not considered to affect fairness, testosterone levels are still understood to generate a competitive edge.
Dutee Chand is an Indian athlete that has been in the focus of a recent drama in elite sport. Chand, a gifted athlete and champion, was suspended from participating in competitions by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), after she was found to have high levels of testosterone. A biological condition called “hyperandrogenism” caused Chand to have three times more testosterone than an average woman athlete, similar to that of men. Chand was given the unappealing alternative of undergoing surgery and hormonal treatments meant to “normalize” her so she could race again, or turning to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), she chose the latter.
One would think that in a world in which men and women’s sports are so profoundly separated, distinguishing between male and female athletes would be a no-brainer. Well, it’s not like that at all. Chand’s case can be traced along a history of similar episodes in which female athletes (like South African runner Caster Semanya and others) were suspected for not being “true females,” having to undergo medical scrutiny in order to conclude on the matter. This ambiguity is not special to athletes. It even has a name – “intersex,” an umbrella term describing a range of conditions in which the person’s sex cannot be conclusively determined. To read more on intersex variations click here.
In his New York Times op-ed today, former Denver tight end Nate Jackson explains why the NFL should prefer that its players use marijuana to medicate their pain rather than to rely on prescription drugs that can have serious side effects and promote dangerous addictions. Jackson explains quite effectively why he needed marijuana during his six-year career:
I broke my tibia, dislocated my shoulder, separated both shoulders, tore my groin off the bone once and my hamstring off the bone twice, broke fingers and ribs, tore my medial collateral ligament, suffered brain trauma, etc. Most players have similar medical charts. And every one of them needs the medicine.
But to ask whether players should use marijuana or legal drugs to treat their pain is to ask the wrong question. As I write in a forthcoming symposium on concussion in sports in the Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, Continue reading
[Disclaimer: I am not involved in this, and the views expressed here are entirely my own.]
Concussions and Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) have been the dominant subject of concern in the sports world recently, and for good reason, but I would like to highlight an often overlooked and more general problem. Our athletes are rewarded for pushing their bodies to the brink to accomplish majestic feats, requiring physical perfection. We laud playing through injuries to succeed at the pinnacle of sport, or recovering from injuries at super human speeds, only to return those bodies to the brutal punishment of competition. With these pressures, Concussions and PEDs can be viewed as mere symptoms of a culture that runs from the fans to the teams to the players themselves, asking them to sacrifice their bodies, sometimes, to the detriment of their long-term health. In this new age of awareness about player health, we should be asking: Are athletes making properly informed rational choices about their health? Or are there situations where neither the players nor their teams are properly incentivized to protect long-term player health due to the culture described above?
Some recent stories have exemplified the culture: