The Olympics and gender

Sex testing for elite female athletes is a highly charged issue. In the A2 Complete Companion (page 105 3rd edition) we have written about the past decision by the Olympic committee to decide gender on the basis of obvious physical differences. Just before the 2012 Olympics the committee released new regulations which involve measuring testosterone levels. There are many who regard this as a flawed approach (see, for example, Katrina Karkazis’s blog or click on CBS news item on right).

One argument is that there is little evidence that testosterone does confer an athletic advantage in a predictable way. In fact women who have AIS (andogen insensitivity syndrome), and are thus insensitive to testosterone, are actually overrepresented among elite athletes. A further argument is the question of whether other biological abnormalities should also be banned (high levels of testosterone in women are due to medical conditions, so should people with conditions that enhance aerobic conditions also be banned?).

Such discussions continue to highlight the role of gender research in understanding what determines male-female differences.