From: "Christine Burns"
International Olympic officials have had since the early 1930's to get
used to the idea that sex isn't as neat and binary as they teach in
school biology classes. Androgen insensitivity is just one of many
naturally occuring intersex variations that make a mockery of the idea
of testing for male or femaleness. For these reasons sex testing was
abandonned, starting with the Sydney games in 2000. However, doctors
involved in Sports Medicine have been slow to help dispel the myths
around gender variance, and especially the false assumption that trans
and intersex women pose a risk of unfair competition for "normal" women
athletes. The reality is very different, but the myths still encourage
officials to abuse innocent competitors in the way that has happened to
top Indian Athlete Santhi Soundarajan a few weeks ago.
For background see
This article by Canadian Sports writer Jim Morris highlights the fight
taken up by two trans sportswomen to get the International Olympic
Commission and its' medical specialists to take responsibility for
wrecking Santhi's life and career. Following Jim's article you will find
a letter written by trans golf pro Mianne Bagger to the IOC President
and Sports Leaders in Canada. This provides more detail.
Canadian mounts fight to have medal returned
to runner who failed sex test
By Jim Morris
The Canadian Press
A Canadian transgender athlete who hopes to compete at the 2008 Summer
Olympics has written IOC president Jacques Rogge a pair of letters
criticizing how an Indian runner was stripped of her medal after failing
a gender test during the Asian Games in December.
Kristen Worley, a cyclist and waterskier who has undergone
sex-reassignment surgery, is leading a fight to have the medal returned
to Santhi Soundarajan.
Worley argues Soundarajan should never have been subjected to a gender
test. She also says the incident is an example of the misconceptions
surrounding the issue of gender in sport.
"The very reason they stopped sex testing before the Sydney Games was
specifically because of the inconsistency, genetically, of a women's
makeup," Worley said in a telephone interview. "Chromosomes do not give
the actual sex or gender of a person's make up."
Not only should Soundarajan get her medal back, she should have her
dignity returned, Worley said.
"This is not her problem, this is an IOC problem," she said.
"This is a problem at the highest level of sport and how we deal with
ethical issues such as this in sport."
Soundarajan's story made headlines around the world.
The 25-year-old won silver after finishing second in the 800 meters at
the Asian Games, held in Doha, Qatar. She was later stripped of her
medal because test reports sent to the Indian Olympic Association said
Soundarajan "does not possess the sexual characteristics of a woman."
The test was administered by a medical commission set up by the Games'
Later stories in the India Times and The Hindu said the tests conducted
on Soundarajan could have shown incomplete results but she would have to
appeal to the International Olympic Committee medical commission if she
wanted her medal back.
It's also been reported Soundarajan may have a condition known as
Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS).
AIS is a condition that affects the development of the reproductive and
genital organs. AIS individuals are genetically male but may have male
or female genitalia.
The IOC no longer does genetic testing of athletes but the Olympic
Council of Asia continues to conduct tests, according to the India
The IAAF allows people with AIS to compete with females on the argument
they do not have any advantage over others since there is practically no
effect of testosterone. Eight athletes with AIS competed as women at the
1996 Atlanta Olympics.
In one of her letters to Rogge, Worley accused the IOC of creating a
"very tragic situation."
"It should never have been handled in such a gross manner, amounting to
public humiliation because of their ignorance of her condition," Worley
wrote. "The Olympic movement has been dealing with intersex people since
the 1930s. You'd think they would have got the hang of it by now."
An IOC official, contacted by e-mail, couldn't confirm if Rogge had
received the letter.
Mianne Bagger, the first male-to-female golfer to play professionally,
has also sent Rogge a letter of protest.
"Why now has this woman been publicly disgraced and humiliated by being
labelled as 'a woman who has failed a sex test?" wrote Bagger. "Not only
that, it is reported she is now required to appeal to the IOC Medical
Commission to have this decision overturned.
"Santhi Soundarajan has done nothing wrong and she should not be in a
position to require a 'sympathetic hearing' from anyone."
Bagger, a Dane, was barred from the professional golf circuit when she
had sex-reassignment surgery in 1995, but finally won admission in late
Worley, who prefers the term transitioned to transgender, competes in
both track and road cycling. She hopes to qualify for the cycling team
for the Beijing Olympics.
In 2004 the IOC allowed athletes who have undergone sex reassignment to
compete in elite level sports.
Some of the conditions imposed include: athletes having to wait for two
years after surgery to compete; and legal recognition of their assigned
Worley and some other transgender athletes argue these conditions make
them stand out instead of fit in.
Last fall a Canadian mountain biker received a three-month suspension
for wearing a T-shirt that mocked transgender cyclist Michelle Dumaresq.
Dumaresq had won her third Canadian downhill title at a competition in
Whistler. During the awards ceremony the second-place finisher wore a
white T-shirt that said "100 Per Cent Pure Woman Champ."
Letter from Mianne Bagger to the IOC President
(reproduced with permission of the author)
Date: January 2, 2007 5:48:28 AM EST (CA)
Addressed To: Jacques Rogge (IOC President), Patrick Schamasch
(Director of IOC Science and Medicine), and other sports leaders
Subject: RE: Attention Mr. Rogge - Now more on Santhi Soundararajan
Dear Mr. Rogge
I am writing in equal protest with Kristen Worley concerning the recent
disgraceful sequence of events that transpired regarding Indian athlete,
Santhi Soundararajan, at the Asia Games. Here is a young woman who has
spent years of her life, dedicated to being the best athlete she can be,
and she accomplished something quite fantastic. The ultimate goal
.....to win, or to win a medal!
(Links to articles currently on the internet)
From all available reports, she has in fact not failed a gender test due
to her reported condition of AIS. Despite this, there has been no
mention of the decision being overturned and her medal rightfully being
returned to her. As a result, her success has now been brutally stripped
from her and she has been publicly disgraced through no other reason
than the ineptitude of the athletics federation/officials that conducted
the testing, and ultimately the IOC for not taking the lead and publicly
setting examples on the issue of gender variance and natural human
diversity in sports.
Why now, has this woman been publicly disgraced and humiliated by being
labelled as 'a woman who has failed a sex test'? Not only that, it is
reported that she is now required to appeal to the IOC Medical
Commission to have this decision overturned!
The IOC needs to take a public stand, immediately, in defence of Santhi
Soundararajan, stating that she has not failed a sex test and that the
fault lies with the ignorance and prejudice of 1 or more officials at
the Asian Games. There needs to be education to come from the IOC in
explaining the circumstances, and that 'gender variant' conditions exist
naturally in human beings, and are not an issue in sport. Sport is for
Mistakes like this simply cannot be seen to happen again. It isn't a
mistake that can just be undone ....they ruin people's lives! The
irreparable damage has already been done to Santhi's life! Not only to
her family, friends and sporting peers, but on a global public scale!
The information that was leaked to the press was of an extremely
personal nature and NOT for public knowledge under any circumstances.
There has been no protection of the athlete whose life is concerned.
Santhi Soundararajan has done nothing wrong and she should not be in a
position to require a 'sympathetic hearing' from anyone. Does anyone
even begin to understand how humiliating this would be for her on a
personal level, and now the expectation is on her to prove her innocence
to clear her name. This should no longer be happening in sport! The IOC
cannot continue to allow this to happen and has an ethical obligation to
act responsibly over for athletes and NSO's around the world.
The IOC needs to take a stand to educate NSO's, and the public, on
issues of gender variance in sports. It is a matter of natural variation
in human form which is beyond any individual's control, and is not open
to inflexible and social definitions of gender. Yet this still becomes
an issue of someone being labelled as 'cheating' in sports, or.... as a
'man masquerading as a woman'. The IOC needs to set the example loud and
clear, and publicly.
There would also seem to be faults within the actual testing procedure
of an athlete that need immediate attention; what loop hole exists
where any official is able to name a person in relation to test results
before they are completed? The behaviour of such an official, and breach
of confidential practice, is reprehensible and such individual should be
The sole reason for these types of tests being carried out, is for the
fear of a 'man competing in women's sports', thus having an unfair
strength advantage ....as it is with issues of doping. The whole premise
is of someone gaining an unnatural or unfair advantage over other
competitors for the purposes of winning in sports. These advantages are
gained through performance enhancing substances in varying forms -
consisting mostly of steroids or testosterone in varying forms.
It is medical fact that if someone does not have testosterone in their
body, there is a physiological inability to even retain muscle mass and
condition, let alone being able to further develop, or increase, muscle
mass. The IOC rightfully stopped sex testing at the 2000 Olympics and it
needs to ensure that sporting organisations that want to be a part of
the Olympics, follow the same rules and protocol.
Gender variance is an issue that repeatedly gets 'brushed under the
carpet' simply because it makes people uncomfortable. The sporting arena
is one where this always gets blown out of proportion and nothing is
ever done to change it. The sporting world needs to change, and the IOC
is the organisation (as the leading sports figure in the world) that
can, and should, make this happen.
Please don't allow this ignorance to continue. The issue needs to be
addressed at the highest levels of sport.
This message comes to you from Press for Change, the UK's trans
DISCLAIMER: This email may include material written by third parties,
which is distributed for information only and may not reflect the
views or policies of Press For Change.