Ottawa

Ottawa coach calls IAAF testosterone ruling unfair, humiliating

An Ottawa fitness coach says the a new ruling by an international sports federation tells some women they are not women enough.

Gold medallist Castor Semenya 'is being penalized for something that's not her fault'

Simone Samuels, a fitness coach and blogger, says the recent ruling on testosterone levels by the International Association of Athletics Federations is unfair. (Simone Samuels)

An Ottawa fitness coach says a controversial proposal by the international track and field federation is humiliating because it's telling some women they are not women enough.

The International Association of Athletics Federations said women with high levels of testosterone should have to take drugs to suppress those hormones before they can compete in races ranging from 400 metres to one mile.

It said it wants to protect fairness and the integrity of women's sports, since testosterone promotes the growth of stronger muscles and bones.

Caster Semenya, a South African middle-distance runner and two-time Olympic gold medalist with naturally high levels of testosterone, lost an appeal on these rules to the highest court in sports last week.

Ottawa coach Simone Samuels said the decision is unfair and would hits close to home as a person with polycystic ovary syndrome, a hormonal condition that can produce excess testosterone. 

"To say she needs to take testosterone suppressants [is to] say she needs to be less of herself," Samuels told CBC Radio's All In A Day. 

"[It's saying] that she must somehow decrease herself, or come within the scope that we have designed for her as a society — that's my issue."

As a person with polycystic ovary syndrome, Samuels said she's never been told she can't play sports against other women even though she said women like herself are able to build muscle more easily.

"We use it to our advantage — that's what kind of led me into personal training," she said.

When a parent sees their child is flexible or very tall, they would often then put them in a sport such as gymnastics or basketball to take advantage, Samuels said. 

"[Semenya] naturally has excess testosterone … and she's being penalized for something that's not her fault," she said. 

"This is what she is. This is what she's born with … I've always had issues with decisions that don't take into account the diversity of people in the world."

South African Olympic 800-metre champion Caster Semenya, shown in this April 2019 file photo, lost her appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport on Wednesday. (AFP/Getty Images)

Samuels said she used to be concerned about her syndrome. For a long time, she said she wanted to be small like other women. 

"It was only a few years ago that I realized that perhaps my differences were my strength," she wrote in a recent blog post.

"[I thought] perhaps I should put my muscle to some good use."

Being a successful athlete, she said, is the result of hard practise, and sometimes natural advantages. 

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