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As outlined in this chapter, sex can be defined at several levels: chromosomal, gonadal, and phenotypic. To this we can add psychological sex, the sex one believes themselves to be. Determining someone’s sex is a complex issue that is often difficult to resolve, as the case of Bruce Reimer (see Section 7.1) illustrates. In spite of the complexity surrounding this issue, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAFF) still use sex testing on female athletes to determine whether they can compete in athletic events as females. This has led to serious personal, social, and legal issues, and the practice has been widely condemned and widely defended. Let’s examine two such cases here. An Indian athlete, Santhi Soundarajan, finished second in the 800-meter run at the Asian Games in Doha, Qatar, in 2006. After the race, she was asked to take a sex test. According to press reports, the tests showed that she “appeared to have abnormal chromosomes.” An official stated that she had more Y chromosomes than allowed. As a result, she was stripped of her medal, banned from further competition by the Indian Olympic Association, and shunned by her local community. Before the race in Doha, Santhi had competed in 8 international competitions and won 12 medals. Sometime after this incident, she attempted suicide. She now runs a training school for athletes in Tamil Nadu, India. Although the number and types of tests done on Santhi have not been revealed, such tests usually involve examination of the external genitals, a chromosome analysis, and measurement of hormone levels. Suppose you were on the committee deciding whether Santhi could compete as a female. Consider each of the following hypothetical tests one at a time and base your conclusions only on the results of that test. The results of a physical examination show she has female genitals. On this basis, would you allow her to keep her medal and compete as a female in future races? Suppose the results of a chromosomal analysis shows that she has an XY chromosome set and is chromosomally male. Would you allow her to keep her medal and compete as a female? Lastly, suppose a test for hormone levels shows that she has levels of the male sex hormone testosterone that are higher than average for females but at least 10 times lower than the average for males. Would you allow her to keep her medal and compete in future races as a female? Now, put the results of all three tests together, and consider them as a whole. What are your conclusions? Now, let’s consider the case of a South African runner, Caster Semenya, who won the 800-meter run at the World Championships held in Berlin, Germany, in 2009. After the race, she was asked to undergo sex testing. The IAAF stated that the tests were requested to ascertain whether she had a rare medical condition that gave her an unfair physical advantage. The nature of the tests and their results were not released, but press reports indicate that she did not have ovaries or a uterus, and had testosterone levels intermediate between the averages for males and females. In the end, the IAAF agreed to keep the results of her tests confidential, and Caster was allowed to keep her medal and return to international competition in 2010. In both cases, what the IAAF considers the threshold for determining who can compete as a female has not been stated. Based on what is known about the test results in this case and the hypothetical tests in the first case, do you think the outcome in each case was fair?

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Human Heredity: Principles and Iss...

11th Edition
Michael Cummings
Publisher: Cengage Learning
ISBN: 9781305251052

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BuyFindarrow_forward

Human Heredity: Principles and Iss...

11th Edition
Michael Cummings
Publisher: Cengage Learning
ISBN: 9781305251052
Chapter 7, Problem 1CS
Textbook Problem
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As outlined in this chapter, sex can be defined at several levels: chromosomal, gonadal, and phenotypic. To this we can add psychological sex, the sex one believes themselves to be. Determining someone’s sex is a complex issue that is often difficult to resolve, as the case of Bruce Reimer (see Section 7.1) illustrates. In spite of the complexity surrounding this issue, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAFF) still use sex testing on female athletes to determine whether they can compete in athletic events as females. This has led to serious personal, social, and legal issues, and the practice has been widely condemned and widely defended. Let’s examine two such cases here.

An Indian athlete, Santhi Soundarajan, finished second in the 800-meter run at the Asian Games in Doha, Qatar, in 2006. After the race, she was asked to take a sex test. According to press reports, the tests showed that she “appeared to have abnormal chromosomes.” An official stated that she had more Y chromosomes than allowed. As a result, she was stripped of her medal, banned from further competition by the Indian Olympic Association, and shunned by her local community. Before the race in Doha, Santhi had competed in 8 international competitions and won 12 medals. Sometime after this incident, she attempted suicide. She now runs a training school for athletes in Tamil Nadu, India. Although the number and types of tests done on Santhi have not been revealed, such tests usually involve examination of the external genitals, a chromosome analysis, and measurement of hormone levels.

Suppose you were on the committee deciding whether Santhi could compete as a female. Consider each of the following hypothetical tests one at a time and base your conclusions only on the results of that test. The results of a physical examination show she has female genitals. On this basis, would you allow her to keep her medal and compete as a female in future races? Suppose the results of a chromosomal analysis shows that she has an XY chromosome set and is chromosomally male. Would you allow her to keep her medal and compete as a female? Lastly, suppose a test for hormone levels shows that she has levels of the male sex hormone testosterone that are higher than average for females but at least 10 times lower than the average for males. Would you allow her to keep her medal and compete in future races as a female? Now, put the results of all three tests together, and consider them as a whole. What are your conclusions?

Now, let’s consider the case of a South African runner, Caster Semenya, who won the 800-meter run at the World Championships held in Berlin, Germany, in 2009. After the race, she was asked to undergo sex testing. The IAAF stated that the tests were requested to ascertain whether she had a rare medical condition that gave her an unfair physical advantage. The nature of the tests and their results were not released, but press reports indicate that she did not have ovaries or a uterus, and had testosterone levels intermediate between the averages for males and females. In the end, the IAAF agreed to keep the results of her tests confidential, and Caster was allowed to keep her medal and return to international competition in 2010. In both cases, what the IAAF considers the threshold for determining who can compete as a female has not been stated.

Based on what is known about the test results in this case and the hypothetical tests in the first case, do you think the outcome in each case was fair?

Summary Introduction

To determine: Whether the outcome in each case was fair or not.

Introduction: Several methods of sex testing are used by the International Olympic Committee and the International Association of Athletics Federation to test the “femaleness” of female athletes and prevent the male athletes from cheating in the competition by competing as females. These tests depict several personal, legal and social issues, and have been condemned and defended widely.

Explanation of Solution

An Indian athlete, Santhi Soudarajan who won the second prize in the 800-meter race at the Asian Games in Doha, Qatar, in 2006 was asked to take a sex test whose results depicted that the athlete “appeared to have abnormal chromosomes” as it was found that the athlete had more Y chromosomes than allowed. The athlete was stripped of the medals won and was banned from competing in any further competitions by the Indian Olympic Association.

On the basis of the hypothetical tests, the athlete was found to be phenotypically female, had an XY set of sex chromosomes and had intermediate levels of testosterone. The outcome in the given case was unfair. The athlete had a medical disorder which may be partial or complete androgen insensitivity. The athlete should have been allowed to participate in the further competitions.

In the second case, where the South African runner, Caster Semenya underwent a sex test and was found to have an unfair physical advantage due to the intermediate testosterone levels. This provided the athlete with an added advantage over the other female candidates in the form of increased strength and power. The athlete was allowed to keep the medals and participate in further international competitions from 2010. The results, in this case, were fair as the athlete might have a certain medical disorder due to which the absence of ovaries and uterus was depicted. The testosterone levels were intermediate and the athlete could not compete with males because of depicting female phenotypic characteristics. It was justified to let her compete as a female in future competitions.

Thus, the results in the first case where the athlete was stripped of its medals were unjustified, whereas the results in the second case where the athlete was allowed to keep the medals and participate in future competitions were justified.

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