By Roger Pielke Jr. Decisions about who can compete as a female athlete in world-class athletics should be informed by science, but they are ultimately subjective. In the summer of , Harry Shapiro, the chair and curator of anthropology at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, revealed to the public Norma and Normman, two statues intended to epitomize the average young American male and female. Normman was the result of measurements of millions of soldiers taken during World War I. But the combination of so many averages in one person is rare and unusual.
Science, Sport, Sex, and the Case of Caster Semenya | Issues in Science and Technology
Mixed-sex sports also known as mixed-gender or coed sports are individual and team sports whose participants are not of a single sex. In organised sports settings, rules usually dictate an equal number of people of each sex in a team for example teams of one man and one woman. Usually, the main purpose of these rules are to account for physiological sex differences. Mixed-sex sports in informal settings are typically groups of neighbours, friends or family playing without regard to the sex of the participants.
Science, Sport, Sex, and the Case of Caster Semenya
This essay is part of our occasional series Zoom Out , where authors explore key ideas in science and technology in the broader context of society and humanity. Middle-distance runner Caster Semenya will need to take hormone-lowering agents, or have surgery, if she wishes to continue her career in her chosen athletic events. The case was brought to CAS by Semenya, as she argued discrimination linked to a decision preventing some women, including herself, from competing in some female events.
Sex verification in sports also known as gender verification , or loosely as gender determination or a sex test occurs because eligibility of athletes to compete is restricted in theory whenever sporting events are limited to a single sex , which is generally the case, as well as when events are limited to mixed-sex teams of defined composition e. Practice has varied tremendously over time, across borders and by competitive level. Issues have arisen multiple times in the Olympic games and other high-profile sporting competitions, for example allegations that certain male athletes attempted to compete as women or that certain female athletes had intersex conditions that gave unfair advantage. The first mandatory sex test issued by the International Association of Athletics Federations IAAF , the world's track and field governing body, for woman athletes was in July in the month before the European Championships in Belgium.