Female Olympians: A Strange Phenomenon, Apparently

In recent Olympic news, there’s been a lot of stories on female athletes in the Olympics, partly because of the IOC’s policy that puts in place sex verification made to ban women with naturally high testosterone levels from women’s competitions, because of an apparent advantage.

American hurdler and all around awesome person Lolo Jones

Of course, THIS IS TOTAL CRAP. Having more testosterone does not equal higher athletic ability. And suggesting that’s so is insulting to everyone, especially to the athletes that work so hard. Caster Semenya’s situation comes to mind especially, where the IAAF decided to test her “womanness” in a way that invaded Semenya’s privacy and turned her into a political statement.

via The Guardian

What’s next, testing male athletes on teams for higher estrogen levels because of a correlation between estrogen and a cooperative nature? Or preventing older athletes from competing unless they have progesterone levels on par with younger athletes? Or preventing Michael Phelps from competing because he has a body made to win?

Michael Phelps swimming

Oh, no, wait, according to Scientific American, that means nothing — and is usually an excuse made by people because of the association fallacy that something inherently “special” about Michael got him the win — not hard work, a devotion to improving his form, or anything like that:

So do you think there is anything to these “natural physical gift” arguments?

H. Richard Weiner (an internist and a former acclaimed All-American swimmer): I’m sure if we could measure Phelps as much as we would like, we would find attributes better than average for swimming, but I don’t think we would find any glaring abnormalities. I suspected if we could comprehensively measure all Olympians in finals, we would see significant differences [when compared to non-Olympians], but we would not see them having freakish things like 200 percent more lung capacity, or muscles that can contract at twice the [maximum] force of a normal human muscle. I mean, come on.

This is particularly disturbing because when the IOC, a huge international non-state actor, is policing gender, it suggests there is a standard for being a “woman, for being a “good” athlete, and that everyone should fit a very scientific heteronormative narrative. For an event supposed to be about inclusion and international unity, they have a very odd way of showing it. Not to mention the fact that wealth has more to influence athletic ability than near anything else.