As It Happens

Top sports court lifts ban on female sprinter with naturally high testosterone

A year ago, Indian runner Dutee Chand was barred from competing. Track and field's governing body said her testosterone levels gave her an unfair advantage. Now the Court of Arbitration in Sport has allowed her to race again.
Indian athlete Dutee Chand in Mumbai, India on Oct. 29, 2014. Chand will aim to qualify for next year's Olympic Games after the Court of Arbitration for Sport's decision to suspend IAAF rules that could have blocked women with high levels of male hormones from competing in Rio de Janeiro. (Rafiq Maqbool/Associated Press)

Soon Dutee Chand will be competing again.

Chand is a 19-year-old Indian sprinter. Last summer, the international body that governs track and field banned her from racing. The IAAF said she had an unfair advantage because of naturally high levels of testosterone in her body.

The Court of Arbitration in Sport has now suspended that rule, clearing the way for Chand to compete again — for now.

Bruce Kidd is part of the team that advocated on the athlete's behalf. He's a former star runner and a professor at the University of Toronto. He says the IAAF's ban on Chand was misguided, hurtful and racist.

"We were over the moon," he tells As It Happens guest host Laura Lynch. "It was such a moving and tremendous victory," 

Bruce Kidd, a former runner and professor at the University of Toronto, has been advocating for Dutee Chand. (Photo: U of T)

"This is not only a victory for Dutee, but it's a victory for all women in the world and, particularly, the women in the global south who have been targeted by this policy."

Kidd says Chand is only the most recent of many women from Asia and sub-Saharan Africa who have been selected for the test for naturally high testosterone levels.

"They were singled out because, to male gazes, to people in track and field, they are considered too masculine," he says.

Kidd calls Chand "brave, proud, principled." He says she was advised to undergo either hormonal therapy or surgery to bring her body chemistry in line with the track authority's requirements.

"She said, 'No, this is who I am. I am a woman. This is me. And I should have the right to compete as I am.'"

Kidd says that the IAAF has not disclosed details about who has been "found wanting" after being tested for high testosterone. But, he says, it seems only women from Asia and sub-Saharan Africa have been suspended based on the testosterone testing.

The IAAF argues that naturally-elevated testosterone levels in women give them an unfair advantage. Kidd counters that it is unfair to single out one of many factors — such as height, reach, and even income — that give athletes an edge.

The governing body will now have two years to present scientific evidence to the court to support the ban.

In the meantime, Chand will now be able to compete in the World Athletic Championships next month in Beijing.