News 27th July 2015

CAS suspends IAAF’s Hyperandrogenism Regulations

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) today suspended the International Association of Athletics Federations’ (IAAF) Hyperandrogenism Regulations for a maximum of two years, as the IAAF was unable to provide scientific evidence about the degree of performance advantage enjoyed by hyperandrogenic female athletes. During the hearing of Dutee Chand’s appeal against the validity of the Hyperandrogenism Regulations, the Panel was unable to conclude that hyperandrogenic female athletes benefit from such a significant performance advantage that it is necessary to exclude them from female competition.

The IAAF will now have up to two years to provide scientific evidence outlining the degree of competitive advantage enjoyed by hyperandrogenic females, otherwise the rules will be declared void. In the meantime, Dutee Chand (pictured, right) will be free to compete.

‘The Panel finds that the IAAF has not discharged its burden of establishing that the criteria in the Hyperandrogenism Regulations are necessary and proportionate to pursue the legitimate objective to regulating eligibility to compete in female athletics to ensure fairness in athletic competition’, read the conclusion of the 161-page judgment, below. ‘Specifically, the IAAF has not provided sufficient scientific evidence about the qualitative relationship between enhanced testosterone levels and improved athletic performance in hyperandrogenic athletes […] The IAAF has not established, on the balance of probabilities, that the Hyperandrogenism Regulations apply only to exclude female athlete that are shown to have a competitive advantage of the same order as that of a male athlete.’

However, the CAS Panel dismissed Chand’s contention that testosterone was not a factor in influencing Lean Body Mass (LBM) post puberty. The panel accepted that LBM was the main factor that influenced sporting performance post-puberty, and that testosterone levels played a part in that. ‘The Panel is satisfied, to the requisite standard of proof, that there is a scientific basis in the use of testosterone as a marker for the purposes of the Hyperandrogenism Regulations’, read the judgment.

‘The IAAF is happy to note the CAS Panel’s ruling that there is a sound scientific basis to the Regulations, in that endogenous testosterone is “the best indicator of performance differences between male and female athletes”, and its acceptance that hyperandrogenic female athletes may have a competitive advantage over athletes with testosterone levels in the normal female range’, read an IAAF statement. It said that it would make no further comment on the case until it has completed discussions with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and its experts in order to decide how best to proceed.

Chad was banned in July 2014 after the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) found that her androgen levels were above the 10 nmol/L permitted by the IAAF. Her appeal to the CAS was supported by the Sports Authority of India (SAI). ‘The high androgen level produced by my body is natural’, wrote Chand at the time. ‘I have not doped or cheated. If I follow the IAAF guidelines, I will have to undergo medical intervention in order to reduce my naturally-produced androgen level. Experts tell me that the basis for this policy is unscientific and that these interventions are often irreversible and will harm my health now and into my future.’

The IAAF’s Regulations Governing Eligibility of Females with Hyperandrogenism to Compete in Women’s Competition were first introduced in 2011, after the suspension of South African middle-distance runner Caster Semenya in 2009. The regulations were purported to be a fairer way of splitting athletes into male and female competition than the gender test used to suspend Semenya, when she was 19.  “She is a woman, but maybe not 100%”, IAAF General Secretary Pierre Weiss told media at the time.

The IOC followed the IAAF by introducing ‘Regulations on Female Hyperandrogenism’ on 22 June 2012, just in time for the London Olympics. These rules allegedly led to the surgical castration of four athletes in order to allow them to compete at the London Games, according to an article published in the International Business Times. The IAAF initially denied that this ever took place, however a 2013 study appears to suggest that it did. It is understood that all four athletes were found to have a mix of male and female anatomical features and ended up having surgery to remove undescended testicles, being told that this would lower their testosterone levels and allow them to continue competing. The study revealed that all the athletes had medical procedures that had nothing to do with this process: reductions to the size of their clitorises, ‘feminine’ remodelling surgery and oestrogen replacement therapy.

The CAS decision comes shortly after the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario accepted Canadian cyclist Kristen Worley’s case against the same regulations, on 14 July. You can read more about her case in this EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with the Sports Integrity Initiative by clicking here.

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