SThe New York Times is reporting that the Beijing Olympics organizers have erected a gender determination lab to test female athletes suspected of being genetically male. "Male" and "female" in this circumstance are defined wholly chromosomally. "The concept has drawn criticism over the years, largely because certain chromosomal abnormalities may cause a woman to fail a test, even though it gives her no competitive advantage," according to the Times. Until 1999, these tests were required of every female Olympian, but because of the invasive and controversial nature of the procedure, they were discontinued; now the tests are allowed only if a woman's gender is called into question. (Indian middle distance runner Santhi Soundarajan, pictured above left, had her silver medal from the Asian Games stripped from her in 2006 for failing a chromosome test.)The testing was originally instituted in the 60s because communist countries were accused of trying to pass men off as women in order to dominate the Olympics, but as the website Feministe points out, "Note how Soundarajan is not identified as a male [in the New York Times]. The article uses feminine pronouns, for goodness' sake. Her only crime was being intersexed, having one of those genetic abnormalities that can cause the test to yield false results. In fact, it doesn't appear that there are any cases of this kind of screening revealing men cheating by pretending to be women at this level of competition at all." Another reason this testing is fishy: the Olympic organizers aren't testing men for genetic abnormalities. Men with Klinefelter syndrome have two X chromosomes and Y, so are genetically more similar to women than the average man. Since scientists have already proved that these genetic differences give athletes no advantage, is there any way to call this situation anything other than outright discrimination? Gender Testing For Female Olympians [Feministe] Lab Ready for Sex Tests for Female Athletes [NYT]
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