Transgender British athletes fearful of being ridiculed at Rio Olympic Games

South African runner Caster Semenya, who was ordered to undergo gender tests in 2009, won silver in the 200m at the 2012 ...
PHIL NOBLE/REUTERS

South African runner Caster Semenya, who was ordered to undergo gender tests in 2009, won silver in the 200m at the 2012 London Olympics.

Two transgender British athletes, who were born male and are on the verge of competing in women's events at next month's Olympics, are said to be fearful of being exposed and ridiculed.

The athletes have not been named but are so fearful they would "probably drop back" if they found themselves in a medal-winning position, the Mail on Sunday reported.

It said they would become the world's first transgender Olympians at Rio, if selected.

That would be hailed as a human rights victory on the one hand, but be controversial, with critics arguing that male-to-female competitors have an unfair biological advantage in terms of size, muscle mass and lung capacity, the newspaper said.

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Delia Johnston, an adviser to several sporting bodies on transgender issues, said the two had already represented Britain at "a European championship sporting event".

One of them was a potential Olympic medal-winner, having achieved an "awesome" personal best earlier this year, she said.

Their gender status is known to the organisations governing their sports but not to rivals from other nations.

The two transitioned from men to women some years ago and have since "competed in their assigned gender, she said.

"They should be selected but they fear they will be deemed too tricky - too many issues, too much negativity,' she said.

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'If they were in a gold or silver medal position they would probably drop back because their fear of ridicule and total humiliation is so massive," she told the Mail on Sunday.

Under new International Olympic Committee guidelines, transgender athletes are allowed to compete in the Olympics and other international events without undergoing sex reassignment surgery.

A man who has transitioned to a woman must demonstrate that their level of male testosterone is below a specified cut-off level.

The IOC said it changed the policy to adapt to current scientific, social and legal attitudes on transgender issues.

Meanwhile, Indian sprinter Dutee Chand, who was suspended by the IAAF in 2014 due to high testosterone levels, has won selection for Rio.

Chand was cleared by the Court for Arbitration and Sport, which suspended an IAAF rule, saying the IAAF had failed to to prove that women with naturally high levels of testosterone had a competitive edge.

The issue of gender verification gained global attention after South African runner Caster Semenya was ordered to undergo sex tests after winning the 800-metre world title in 2009. She was eventually cleared to compete by the IAAF and won silver in the 800 at the 2012 London Olympics.

The Associated Press reported the IOC used to conduct gender verification tests at the Olympics, but those chromosome-based screenings were dropped before the 2000 Sydney Games because they were deemed unscientific and unethical.

 - Stuff

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