IOC seeks to establish gender-testing centers for athletes


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International Olympic Committee officials told the Associated Press today they are recommending the creation of special medical centers that would handle sex verification cases for athletes.

Following a conference with medical specialists in Miami, the IOC says it wants sports authorities around the world to establish guidelines to determine gender eligibility on a ‘case-by-case’ basis.


The move comes in the wake of the case surrounding South African runner Caster Semenya, who was ordered to submit to gender tests after she won the 800 meters at the IAAF World Track and Field Championships last summer.

But the IOC says Semenya’s case did not spur the recommendation.

‘We did not discuss any particular case,’ IOC medical commission Chairman Arne Ljungqvist told the Associated Press. ‘We explored the science of all these matters. We established several important points bases on up-to-date science and global expertise. We now have the scientific bases for going further.’

As proposed, health centers would seek to diagnose and treat athletes who have ‘disorders of sex development.’ Ljunqvist suggested that treatments such as surgery and hormone therapy could be used to help athletes remain eligible for competition.

The IOC says sports federations would ultimately be in charge of determining gender-specific guidelines for an athlete’s eligibility. They would also have to determine whether an athlete can compete while undergoing gender diagnosis and treatment.

‘The rule needs to allow for a case-by-case evaluation,’ Ljungqvist said.

IOC delegates said ‘pre-participation health examinations’ would be the best way of diagnosing athletes with sex disorders. Some countries already require athletes to have health exams before competing.

The IOC dropped mandatory gender testing for the Olympics in 1999. It now relies on an on-site medical panel for gender-related issues at the Olympics.


Ljungqvist stressed that the recommendations made by the IOC are preliminary and that ‘this may require further discussions.’

-- Austin Knoblauch