For years I have been hearing the mantra from agencies like the International Olympic Committee and the rest that the need for integrity in sport is paramount, and that this is the reason performance-enhancing drugs were banned.
I’ve always felt that the IOC said this with a nudge and a wink, because they’ve tolerated any number of other advantages for specific athletes, including improvements in equipment design (such as bobsleighs), better clothing (especially for swimmers), and the rest.
But it didn’t bother me that much, because using performance-enhancing drugs did feel like cheating, and worse, the use of these drugs could be harmful to the athlete. And I am not supportive of the idea that athletes should deliberately harm themselves in the pursuit of gold.
However, the news that sprinter and Olympic gold medallist Caster Semenya will be required to take drugs to reduce her testosterone levels makes me question all that.
Where is the integrity of drug-free sport if athletes are now required to take certain drugs that impact on their performance? What’s the difference between one athlete taking testosterone to increase her levels as opposed to another athlete taking testosterone to reduce hers?
I agree with Chris Mosier’s comments: “We know that Michael Phelps was suited to be a swimmer but he may not have been a great sprinter, so he found the sport that he was made for just as [Caster] Semenya has found the sport she was made for.”
Whether a person is ‘male’ or ‘female’ is not defined by testosterone levels, and there are no non-arbitrary definitions of testosterone levels that would make a person one of the other. Being a woman isn’t about being ‘weak’ in certain specific ways. If a non-drug-taking woman can best her field for whatever reason, then good for her.
If, on the other hand, you feel that athletes are just slabs of meat to be displayed for entertainment purposes and commercial gain, then the requirement that she must take drugs won’t bother you at all.