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Olympic Games' rules for testing athletes anger activists

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Olympic Games' rules for testing athletes anger activists

BY NATASHA BARSOTTI – On the eve of the Summer Olympics' opening ceremonies in London, queer activists are up in arms over the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) "regulations on female hyperandrogenism," which the Games' governing body says are meant to determine whether athletes are eligible to compete in the female category.

"Intersex female athletes with elevated androgen production give rise to a particular concern in the context of competitive sports, which is referred to as 'female hyperandrogenism,'" the regulations, dated June 22, state. "Androgenic hormones have performance-enhancing effects, particularly on strength, power and speed, which may provide a competitive advantage in sports."  

The IOC also demands that every national Olympic body, prior to the registration of its athletes, look into "any perceived deviation in sex characteristics and keep complete documentation of findings."

The IOC says that nothing in the regulations "is intended to make any determination of sex." An expert panel will be appointed to investigate suspected cases of female hyperandrogenism, the regulations indicate. "If, in the opinion of the Expert Panel, the investigated athlete has female androgenism that confers a competitive advantage (because it is functional and the androgen level is in the male range), the investigated athlete may be declared ineligible to compete in the 2012 OG Competitions."  

But Andre Banks, of the international queer advocacy campaign allout.org, reportedly told Gay Star News that the IOC is playing the role of "gender police."

Banks adds, "We don't ban people from becoming basketball players for being taller than average or weightlifters for being stronger than average. Athletes are punished for cheating — and the International Olympic Committee already has a battery of tests to maintain the integrity of the Olympic Games."

He called the new rules an invasion of privacy and a violation of medical ethics, adding that they foster an environment "where if women are too good, they are suspected of cheating." 

The new policy calls to mind the case of South African athlete Caster Semenya, who endured several months of "gender testing" that endangered her career.

Semenya, 21, will compete in the London Games and has been chosen to carry South Africa's flag in the opening ceremonies on July 27. 

Meanwhile, All Out has initiated a petition calling for an end to the IOC's "unscientific and unfair practice of 'gender testing.'"

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