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Two Black women banned from Olympics for natural testosterone levels sparks racism conversation

Two Black women banned from Olympics for natural testosterone levels sparks racism conversation

This week has seen a string of attacks on Black women athletes smacking of racism and has sparked controversy.

Two cisgender sprinters from Namibia, Christine Mboma and Beatrice Masilingi, have been banned from running in the Olympic 400-meter dash because they have a “natural high testosterone level.” Athletics organizations and doping agencies have had a busy week targeting Black women, starting with the 30-day suspension for 21-year-old Sha’Carri Richardson after testing positive for THC from ingesting weed, something that doesn't enhance your performance, and if anything, makes you slower. This was followed by Fina, the water sports world governing body, banning swimming caps designed for Afro hair at international competitions, including the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Fina deemed the caps were suitable as they don't follow "the natural form of the head."



 

Christine Mboma and Beatrice Masilingi have banned from running the Olympic 400-meter dash ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, reported LGBTQ Nation. It's not the first time the World Athletics organization has used its definition of womanhood to target a woman runner, having banned South African runner Caster Semenya on previous occasions. The World Athletics organization demanded she take drugs to lower her testosterone levels which she refused. This was also in the case of Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi and Margaret Wambui of Kenya, who, along with Semenya, were the three medalists in the 800-meter race at the 2016 Olympic games. All three are cisgender women from Africa.



 

 

Christine Mboma and Beatrice Masilingi were banned immediately after they recorded brilliant performances in their events. Mboma was banned from certain events at the Olympics a day after she ran the 400-meter dash in 48.45 seconds at a meet in Bydgoszcz, Poland. She also holds the under-20 world record in the 400m event. Similarly, Masilingi was banned soon after winning a meet in Switzerland by running the 200-meter dash in 22.67 seconds. “It is important to understand that both our athletes were not aware of this condition neither did any family member, their coach or the NNOC-CGA [Namibia Olympic Committee] were aware of it,” read a statement by the Namibia Olympic Committee in response to the ban.

STANFORD, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 30: Caster Semenya of South Africa races to the finish line to win the women's 800m during the Prefontaine Classic at Cobb Track & Angell Field on June 30, 2019, in Stanford, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

 

The rule to cap testosterone levels for women in 400-meter to 1600-meter reeks of racism and was developed after Semenya ran so fast that the IAAF suspected her of cheating. The committee said a “rare medical condition” in the athlete gave her an “unfair advantage.” Semenya has since challenged the ruling but the Court of Arbitration for Sport rejected her challenge. She filed an appeal with the European Court of Human Rights earlier this year but it was rejected. She took medication to lower her testosterone levels from 2010 to 2015 but suffered side effects such as "weight gain, fevers, a constant feeling of nausea and abdominal pain.” Semenya added that the battle was taking a physical and mental toll on her. 



 



 

 

“As trans writers and activists have been telling us for quite some time, the concept of binary sex, that there are only two non-overlapping sexes and one is either one or the other, is not as clear cut as many claim,” wrote journalist Ruby Hamad in a 2019 column for SBS. “The efforts to bar Semenya also demonstrates how easy it is to undermine women, in particularly racialized women, by shifting the goalposts and requirements for entry into womanhood.”



 

 

It does raise the question if a white person would face the treatment and ban meted out to Black athletes. A study published in 2007 showed that some people had the genes to make them better marathon runners. It showed that ACTN3 mutation boosts muscle endurance. The mutant gene was found, on average, 10% in Africans to about 50% in Europeans and Asians. The authors of the study suggested that the mutation might have had an adaptive advantage for those who migrated out of Africa into Europe and Asia beginning about 60,000 years ago.



 

 

People are different, but it appears only some kind of 'different' is acceptable, while others are not. It's not surprising Athletics organizations have set parameters to define who falls under the definition of a woman to exclude Black athletes, just as it wasn't when the string of measures limiting the participation of Black athletes happened this week, less than a month before the Tokyo Olympics. 



 



 



 

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