Thursday, July 31, 2008
It had to be easier in the old days, didn't it? To tell the difference? The Common Man is mildly mortified to learn that, these days, Olympic officials are having trouble keeping track of just who's what gender. According to Duke University professor of law (and former track and field athlete) Doriane Lambelet, the practice of lifting up athlete's skirts and checking under the hood (actually a blood test) is not a new one. As early as 1968, Olympic officials were testing women to make sure they were, in fact, women, particularly in light of the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc's heavy involvement in anabolic steroids and willingness to cheat by any means necessary, and the fact that a lot of their women athletes looked like dudes.
According to the British newspaper, The Telegraph, eight women have "failed" the test in the past, getting results that suggested they were men. All were cleared on subsequent appeal, as "seven were found to have been suffering from an 'intersexual' condition in which they had some male and some female chromosomal features."
Two part of this story, aside from the inherent curiosity one feels when they visit the carnival, interest The Common Man. The first is that there might actually be men who want to compete as women. Now, as thrilling as Juwanna Mann was, it's hard to believe that anyone would really be able to relish the glory of winning, and endure a celebration of that victory if it were all a deception. At least with the baseball steroid controversy, those who cheated a) never had to lie about who they were and b) were reasonably certain that a lot of their competitors were also getting an unfair boost. In this case, these men would be trying to gain a competitive advantage simply because of their gender. While The Common Man doesn't want to engage in any "men are better athletes than women" bantering, it's clear that anyone competing as a member of the opposite gender would believe in that advantage and would still bask in the glory of the win. The Common Man can't understand that phenomenon.
The second issue that plagues The Common Man is that not all female athletes will be tested. Initially, in the interest of fairness, every woman was checked. However, beginning with the Sydney games in 2000, women were tested "only after doubt had been cast on an athlete's gender," according to Professor Tian Qinjie of the Peking Union Medical College Hospital. Now, consider that. You're minding your own business, swimming your 400 meter freestyle, and somebody has the gall to ask you to step aside 'cuz they aren't sure you're a woman. And this is supposed to be fair, how? Think of the psychological impact something like that could have. ”The aim," Professor Tian says, "is to protect fairness at the Games while also protecting the rights of people with abnormal sexual development.” Well, The Common Man can understand the desire to protect women's medical information, but what about the rights of the women who are yanked aside because someone suspects something. How would you feel, men, if you're in line for the trough at a football game and someone pulled you aside and said, "Hey, no offense, pal, but I don't think you're a dude. You should get out of here."? The Common Man thinks that fella might have a fight on his hands. Or at least an indignant and justified argument.
The Common Man wonders why the Olympic committee can't just test everyone and not release the results until after the games are over and everyone has a chance to get their sexual development disorders in a row? This can't be so complicated that you have to crush the self-esteem of manly women who just want to toss a shotput for their country.