Sport Guard

March 3, 2019

When IAAF challenges God


By Patrick Omorodion

THE Holy Bible tells us in Genesis Chapter 1 and verse 27 that God created man in his own image. And in Chapter 2 and verse 18, we were equally told how God created woman as “a help meet” when He found out that it was not good for the man to be alone.

In other words, God created man and woman but the woman came out of the man. Naturally some, if not all substances, found in man is equally found in woman.

However, biologically some cases exist where some human beings have complete or partial reproductive organs and produces gametes normally associated with both male and female sexes. That is the case with hermaphrodites. We once had a case like that in our sports when Iyabo Abade who competed as a female footballer was discovered to have both male and female reproductive organs.

This caused opposing teams to protest her inclusion in any match against her team. This caused so much emabarrassment for her that she was said to have opted to do surgery to rectify the abnormality and make her a full man. She also changed her name from Iyabo Abade to James Johnson.

However, the story is different for South Africa’s Caster Semenya, a full blown woman. Initially the International Association of Athletics Federations, IAAF forced her to take a gender test and came out with the verdict that she was both man and woman. Their report claimed that she “has no womb or ovaries and her testosterone levels are more than three times higher than those of a normal female.”

Despite the IAAF claims then, she was embraced in her home country – where she was declared “our girl”. She also reacted thus:  “God made me the way I am and I accept myself. I am who I am and I’m proud of myself,” she had told a magazine.

As a result of the IAAF stance, Semenya went underground, pulling out of all competitions for a period of about 11 months until another report which cleared her of being an hermaphrodite came out.

Despite the reprieve that came her way, the IAAF still wants to bar her from competing with other female athletes, claiming that her male hormone, the testosterone is higher than that found in women. Surprising the world body asked her to take some drugs to reduce the testosterone level in her before she could be allowed to run with other female athletes in her specialty, the 800m.

The ding dong affair between the South African and Sebastian Coe-led IAAF has finally gone to the Court of Arbitration for Sports, CAS, as Semenya wants the Arbitration body to decide whether the IAAF were right or not to stop her or ask her to take drugs to reduce the male hormone in her system. She hired five lawyers to argue her case at the CAS and her country equally backed her up in this landmark case. She is not alone on this legal journey as her country’s Parliament has thrown its weight behind her struggle.

According to reports from South Africa, MPs from across the political spectrum wore black golf T-shirts with messages of support including “we say NO to stigmatisation of women in sport”, and “we oppose subtle hatred”.

Opposition National Freedom Party lawmaker Nhlanhlakayise Khubisa said “what is happening to Caster is the worst form of racism”. (It’s the) practice of patriarchy and chauvinism. “She is being crucified for being an excelling, resilient, unwavering and unmatched athlete — our creme de la creme.”

Arguing IAAF’s decision on Semenya, its president, Sebastian Coe said “the regulations are aimed at leveling the field between hyperandrogenic athletes and those with normal levels of testosterone.

“The core value for the IAAF is the empowerment of girls and women through athletics. The regulations that we are introducing are there to protect the sanctity of fair and open competition.”

Is it not ironic that while the IAAF frowns at athletes who spike their system with drugs which it claims enhances performance, it is asking another athlete to take drugs to reduce what she did not put in her system?

Already CAS has heard from lawyers for both IAAF and Semenya and says it will deliver its decision on the matter by March 26. Semenya is not the only athlete who may be affected by the new rules — the two athletes, Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi and Kenya’s Margaret Wambui, who equally faced questions about their testosterone levels, are also eagerly awaiting the decision.

Semenya and other female athletes with high levels of testosterone, did not create themselves and whatever is found their system must have been put there by God. It has also not been proved that Semenya’s testosterone level increased because of  her nutrition so it is unjustifiable for the IAAF to tell her to reduce it. Does it know the reason why God gave her more of the hormone?

Some people have argued that if God blessed Michael Phelps with some special physical attributes that has given him some advantages and made him excel in swimming and nobody or organisation has asked him to reduce those attributes, it is unfair to ask Semenya to do so. It is akin to challenging God for creating her the way she is.