Indian sprinter Dutee Chand was suspended from national and international competition — for naturally having too much testosterone.
After a year of suspension, Chand won the right to compete again after the Court of Arbitration for Sport overturned her suspension.
“Chand was suspected of having high natural testosterone levels and when that was confirmed she was suspended from both international and national competition,” says Katrina Karkazis, bioethicist at Stanford University.
Chand’s testosterone levels happened to be over the ceiling set for natural testosterone levels for women by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and the International Olympic Committee. In reinstating her, the court found there was no scientific proof that natural testosterone levels could confer unfair advantage in women.
“[The sports federations] have created a policy in advance of the science," Karkazis says. "Now they have two years to come up with evidence that will support a policy like this. So it’s actually policy-making process in reverse."
According to Karkazis, the biggest issue is that testosterone is considered a male hormone. Consequently, Chand faced questions about her gender. Karkazis says it could have been avoided if people knew that testosterone is actually in both men and women.
“I hope people understand that these policies aren’t necessary, that there’s no scientific evidence to support them. … I also hope people understand it’s really a win for women athletes overall. This is a policy that scrutinized women based on their appearance, their gender presentation, because people are looking for signs of high testosterone — and it’s really my hope that that kind of policing and scrutiny will stop or at least lessen in the wake of the ruling,” Karkazis says.
Chand can now start her training for the Olympics, but Karkazis says it is going to be hard for her to make up for a year of suspension, physically and mentally.
“I have a lot of faith in her; I know she’s going to come back strong,” Karkazis says.