An appeals court decided this week that Dutee Chand—an Indian female sprinter whose testosterone levels qualify her as male under Olympics guidelines—cannot be banned from competing against other women because of her hormones.
For the last year, though, Chand’s been sidelined—through no fault of her own: she suffers from a condition called hyperandrogenism, which causes her body to produce excessive testosterone. As a result, she tests well outside of the seemingly arbitrary track and field hormone guidelines issued by the IAAF, the governing committee which promulgates regulations for the Olympics. Via the New York Times:
The I.O.C. chose testosterone as a way to differentiate men from women because it is known to increase strength and muscle mass, and to help bodies recover from workouts. Female athletes with high testosterone can still have levels well above the average range for women. They just need to be below what the I.O.C. deems as the men’s range.
The study from the 2011 world championships said testosterone levels for women in the 99th percentile were 3.08 nanomoles per liter, which is markedly lower — “extraordinarily lower,” according to Vilain — than the 10 nanomoles per liter which the I.A.A.F. has set as the lower end for the male range.
The Athletics Federation of India cited that rule when it barred Chand from competition last year, telling her she could only return to the sport if she artificially lowered her testosterone levels, either by having invasive surgery or taking hormone-suppressing drugs.
But an appeals court ruled this week that the IAAF failed to make the case that an abundance of testosterone gives female athletes any kind of performance advantage. It’s not a determinative ruling—the IAAF reportedly has two years to provide the court with studies—but absent such a showing, the hormone guidelines will reportedly be voided.
In the meantime, however, Chand has been cleared for competition.
“What I had to face last year was not fair,” Chand said in a statement reported by the New York Times. “I have a right to run and compete. But that right was taken away from me. I was humiliated for something that I can’t be blamed for.”