Herald: “Doubts raised over boxer’s gender”

It feels like groundhog day in sport news, with a headline report by Cameron Houston in the Sydney Morning Herald on “suspicious” levels of testosterone in an elite Thai woman boxer:

A FEMALE boxer from Thailand recorded “highly suspicious” levels of testosterone before a world title fight in Melbourne on Friday night, again plunging the sport into controversy.
With women’s boxing about to debut at the London Olympics, Thai bantamweight Usanakorn Kokietgym was detected with three times the normal level of testosterone for a woman, amid widespread speculation about her gender.
The 24-year-old had been ordered to undergo hormone testing before fighting the Australian champion, Susie Ramadan, whose trainer, Barry Michael, had accused Usanakorn of punching “harder than most blokes I know”.

We’re hugely disappointed in this reporting by the Herald, and in the stance of the Australian Ringside Medicine Association.

To us, it reads like a sore loser syndrome leading to accusation that elevated testosterone is the reason this person wins. But, hang on a minute – she didn’t win, she went home with the loser’s purse. But would she be game enough to win after these accusations? is this now a part of the game plan? To accuse someone of not being a woman, and in doing that derail their career just like happened to Ms Semenya?

In all seriousness, this is becoming far too common. Testosterone levels have been shown by science to be no indication of maleness or femaleness. Considered papers and letters by Hida Viloria, and multiple articles and papers by Katrina Karkazis, Rebecca Jordan-Young and others seem to have made little impact on the consciousness of athletic federations. We have to knock on their doors one at a time. What next? Table tennis?

So let’s unpack it a bit. Testosterone as a “male ” hormone. It is no such thing: it is an essential hormone for both males and females. “Normal levels for a woman”. Well, there is an average level. Testosterone levels in women range widely, even to levels that overlap the levels associated with males. Female testosterone levels likewise vary over their lifetime.

Then to Dr Peter Lewis referring to “hermaphrodite”. We know that some intersex people are reclaiming this term, but it’s not for Dr Lewis to use to describe a human being.

The word Dr Lewis is struggling to find is “intersex”, and Dr Lewis would have been considerable advantaged by watching the recent SBS documentary on Ms Semenya.

Finally the boxer’s refusal to submit herself to humiliating sex testing is seen as suspicious, when there is no settled way of determining maleness or femaleness. Any intersex person who has endured the humiliation of internal and external inspection would surely sympathise with this sports woman.

Genes, including genetic variations often considered to be disorders by medicine, are potential reasons behind the advantages of all elite sports people.

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