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In August of 2009, policies and procedures to verify the sex of female athletes were called into question when South African runner Caster Semenya
won the 800 meter event of the World Championships in Berlin. Responding to rumors of gender fraud, and fueled by Semenya’s speed, musculature, and deep voice, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) requested that Semenya submit to sex verification to confirm her eligibility for the women’s division.

This Article discusses the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) policy on sex testing, the myth of sex-verification testing, and the myth of the level playing field. It concludes with a proposal prohibiting sex verification testing. The Author recognizes that sex-verification and the level playing field are illusory goals, and in so doing avoids many of the problems that result from the IOC’s current policy of suspicion-based sex-verification testing. As Caster Semenya’s case shows, the policy is rife with abuse and selective application. Moreover, considering the myth of the level playing field created by numerous personal advantages that all athletes bring to the starting line, sex-verification testing inflicts harm on the athlete’s dignity, privacy and personal life that are far disproportionate to any unfairness that is being targeted by examining sex.

Recommended Citation

6 Modern American 36 (2011)