I have been out of it for so long, I just finished six hours of research on the changes to athletics, disability and women’s sports. Perhaps some of that was due to exercising at the Y and the feeling tonight, after several years of a 'brave face', where I just sat and had tears roll down the cheeks. I go to the Y, not because anyone talks to me, or smiles, or says ‘hi’ back, or because I am included even when in class or anywhere, but because I will not give up. And if I have to suffer the glares and rules of an elitist body organization in an elitist town to do it, I will. We try to joke as we go, and say we dread the ‘zero’s and one’s’ (women’s sizes come from 0 which is for thinner than anorexic models to 16 or so, when I was unable to absorb food I went from 12 to 6-8, so still not THIN enough) who will stare at us like we need to have someone ringing a bell ‘BEWARE! BEWARE! A person with body fat is coming through!” Yesh.
First, I want to congratulate Oscar Pistorius who, in qualifying and going to the World Games (in Aug 2011). He is the first amputee competing equally with able body athletes for the World Title. In the 4X400 relay, Pistorius, who had fought the IAAF for three years, taking them to the Court of Sports Arbitration, and winning in order to be able to run was told, along with the team managers that he could run....but only as the lead/first runner.
Ironically, the reason given was the same for why I can’t play volleyball, basketball, or any other drop-in sports at the Y, Oscar might hurt other runners. The IAAF wasn’t concerned for the guy running on blades making a handoff, but that unless he ran in a SEPARATE lane (you know, separate but equal) they could not ensure the safety of the other runners (you know, the ones that can step sideways while running). Yet another rule created by the IAAF president, Lamine Diack for a single athlete.
The problem is the strategy of the 4X400 means that going first is not his usual position. And his times in a later position would have ensured he ran in the finals. Except, though Oscar was part of the team which qualified in all the heats, politics were made so the South African Bronze medallist would take over a spot in the final run. If Oscar had been kept in (in a later position), his time would have gotten them first, but ever race is different, so who knows. Either way, he was dropped, the team lost to the USA and while Oscar gets a Silver Medal (for running all the qualifying heats), he doesn’t have a moment on the podium at the end.
Oscar also qualified for individual 400 at the world games, and came up through the heats to the Semi-Finals before being eliminated. He was extremely consistant, within 1/3rd of a second of his best time (45.05). He wanted to be in the finals, but it would have meant a new personal best, and a slower day for the international competition.
I am going to try, tomorrow, to write about Tracy Whitbread (currently on a UK ‘celeb: get me out of here!’ show), three time Olympian and world record holder for the Javalin and hyperandrogenism, which is the opposite of the Female Triad (disordered eating, lack of menses and osteoporosis). In a study on the Triad, they found about 30% of females who ate well also had a lack of menses and hyperandrogenism (a mild increase in androgyn). I have written to a specialist in this aspect of female sports medicine to find out why this happens and what exactly does happen.
Tracy Whitbread, yet another female athlete who has been called ‘hermaphrodite’, even though she has a 13 year old son and wrote an autobiography which indicates she most definitely is not. Certain types of British papers like to use that word a lot: sells copy. However, when the BBC made a joke about Tracy, she sued them and won. Go Tracy.
One problem with the IAAF is that it, like the Y, sort of just makes up the rules as it goes along. No greater example of this is Castor Semenya, who fell into the limbo of IAAF gender policy. While the Olympics ruled on gender years ago, including male to female transitioned athletes (and female to male), with the IAAF banning all transitioned athletes, there was no way for any of these athletes to get TO the Olympics.
The gender rule of the IAAF was, ‘if an official feels a female isn’t ‘all female’ then they get a ‘gender test.’ There is no gender test for males. Myron Genel, the endocrinologist who advises the IAAF left Castor Semenya in a Limbo for 11 months, while she waited to hear if she was considered female for racing. He wanted new rules which as he puts it, "..ought to at least eliminate the stigmatization of certain women who people feel 'don't look quite right'," says Genel. So it is more of a ‘what does Genel think a woman should look like…test’
The new rules, only a few months old, finally allow transitioned athletes, but only under onerous and almost lifelong testing. It is to anonymous of course, the same way Caster Semenya’s test, which was leaked BEFORE she went out to run and win the world championship 800 meters, and was then led off by officials was anonymous. Or how there were leaks from anonymous ‘IAAF officials’ on how Castor was intersex, Caster was a male, Caster was a transsexual.
Was Castor Semenya allowed to respond to any of these leaks by IAAF rulings? No. And what is typically a couple hour/day or two test took just under a year to okay Castor to run again. This was the IAAF wanted to be ‘fair’.
Interestingly, in 2006-2007 Canada sports created a panel to look at transgender and transitioned athletes in sports. While refusing a direct interview, they did give a background piece from their conclusions (how Canadian to avoid talking about things…..not always socially accepted), which states: "It is widely assumed that transitioned females compete at an advantage over biologically-born females. There is a growing body of evidence to show that transitioned females actually compete at a disadvantage to all other female competitors,"
Canada has not, however, made any changes to assist transitioned female athletes, or any other province or city. Nor has the IAAF, a body which has shown over and over, and over how they are ready to enact for individual athletes or entire groups, all quoting they are doing it in ‘the fairness of sports.’ But then, it always seemed the rulings were more about keeping the status quo, like the ruling that because the rule was to put the ‘foot’ on the starting block, Oscar, wearing blades and no lower legs, would not be able to run.
I keep wanting to believe in a world of gold, but end up with a world of lead. Onward to Castor and Tracy Whitbread.