Should This Runner Be Allowed To Compete In Rio?

| by Brendan Kelly
Caster SemenyaCaster Semenya

A debate has begun over whether South African runner Caster Semenya should be allowed to compete in the Olympics women's 800-meter race, which many predict she will win.

Caster Semenya made news after she won the women's 800 meters in 2009, when her rival Elisa Cusma told reporters she wasn't a woman.

The statements led authorities to conduct some tests, which revealed that she had three times the normal testosterone level of a woman -- almost as much as a man. She also has no ovaries or womb and instead has internal testes, due to a condition called hyperandrogenism. Semenya's abnormality causes her body to produce high levels of male hormones.

A rule was passed soon after the testing, saying that athletes with conditions such as Semenya's should take drugs to reduce the amount of testosterone to a "normal" level to avoid giving certain athletes an unfair advantage. 

Semenya's performance suffered after she was put on the drugs. But the slump in her performance was also partly due to a knee injury, weight gain and a lack of training, according to the Mirror.

The testosterone level rule was overturned in 2015 when it was challenged by Indian runner Dutee Chand, who has the same condition. Now, Semenya has stopped taking the drugs, is back in top shape, and is expected to win the 800 meters in Rio on Aug. 17.

The debate over the Olympic race in 2016 is over whether Semenya should be able to compete with other women. While society is increasingly accepting of the fact that gender is more of a spectrum than two clear-cut categories, the Olympics are struggling to navigate the divide in terms of what is fair and unfair in men's and women's events.

If Semenya is banned from competing, many will say she has been discriminated against for her condition. But if she is allowed to compete and wins, many will accuse her of having an unfair advantage.

Semenya is still allowed to compete, but the debate will likely continue after the Rio Olympics.

The fourth principle of the Olympic Charter states, "Every individual must have the possibility of practising sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play."

Sources: Daily MailMirror / Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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