Thursday, July 31, 2008

Olympic Gender Labs

Female athlete's headed to the Beijing Olympics don't only have Olympian pollution to anticipate, but an intrusive battery of tests to look forward to, seeking banned substances and in some cases looking to see if they are indeed female.

Gender labs are being set up to evaluate the appearance, hormones and genes of "suspect" female athletes, although what constitutes such suspicion is open ended and ripe for abuse. Medical ethicists concur, calling the practice too intrusive, most biased towards transgender and intersexed athletes, and those born with a range of baffling genetic conditions, which people may not even be aware of until they are tested as adults. The 1996 Atlanta games come to mind, when 8 athletes failed but later were cleared of suspicion due to such genetic birth defects.

Keep this in mind, the last time a known case of "gender cheating" was uncovered was in 1936, when German athlete Dora Ratjen finished fourth in the women’s high jump. It wasn't until 1956 that we discovered that Dora was actually Herman and he was forced by the Nazi's to compete as a woman.