Thoughts by the FCN Founder; IAAF decision proves more than ever why we need an influx of women at decision making levels.
Today, I am sad to say that I am ashamed of my sport.
From the days of watching my track and field heroes compete in the Olympic Games as a child in the 80’s, to the day I took my Level 1 athletics coach qualification back in 2000, to now having been actively involved in the sport for nearly 20 years, I have been in love with Track and Field. Over the years I have watched in awe as woman after woman achieved incredible feats of athleticism, bravery and down right determination. From the likes of Sally Gunnel, Gail Devers, Tessa Sanderson, Denise Lewis, Carmelita Jeter, Jess Ennis, Carolina Klüft…the list is endless, all of whom inspired me to not only coach, but to want to make a difference in the World of sport.
As a coach, I volunteered with UK Athletics to help make a difference to coaching equality at the elite end of the sport and since 2014 have been trying my best to raise awareness of female coach and leadership equality in all sports across the Globe through the FCN.
Today, the decision made by the IAAF, the governing body of the sport I love, to force some female athletes to lower their naturally occurring testosterone levels, makes me feel embarrassed to have been a part of the sport for so long.
The decision released by the IAAF today shows, in its extreme, why more than ever, sport needs an influx of women at the decision making levels. I would even go as far as saying that for a decision of this magnitude which is so personal to a woman’s body, only women should be making this decision.
I am not an expert in hormones, I am not an expert in testosterone, I may be a coach, but I am not an expert even in track and field…but I am an expert in being a woman…because that’s what I am. And I can tell you now that this decision does not just insult those athletes competing in the 400m-1500m range, but it insults me and it certainly insults other women involved with the sport.
It doesn’t matter that MY events aren’t affected. And for that reason some might not care about this. But I care that SOMEONE ELSE has declared ME eligible to be female. https://t.co/2H4FEUZOZK
— Tianna T. Bartoletta (@tibartoletta) 26 April 2018
No male athlete has ever had their gender or performance questioned with regards to their genetic makeup. Lets take Usain Bolt as an example; you can’t tell me that he wasn’t born with a genetic superiority for fast twitch muscle fibres (for example) that have allowed him to be the fastest man on Earth. In fact, he is so genetically superior at running fast, that only he and one other athlete have never failed a drugs test in the top 100m sprint times of all time. Every other male athlete who has achieved a time in the top 100 times have had to dope to even try and keep up with him. Usain Bolt is genetically superior to sprint fast, which is no different to Caster Semenya being genetically superior to run an 800m fast, in my opinion.
There are of course female athletes out there who complain about Casters dominance…most notably of all the comments made by Scottish 800m runner Lindsay Sharp who cried on BBC after being interviewed following the Rio Olympic 2016 final stating: “I tried to avoid the issue all year. You can see how emotional it all was. We know how each other feels. It is out of our control and how much we rely on people at the top sorting it out. I was coming down the home straight, we were not far away and you can see how close it is. That is encouraging, we will work hard and aim to come back even stronger”
Lindsay finished 6th in the race.
I think what confuses me and agers me the most is the blatant discrimination of one athlete. The new rules only apply to events ranging from 400m – 1500m, coincidently the exact events that Caster competes in. Does this mean that if she was to compete at a 200m or 3,000m her “high testosterone” levels would give her no advantage? Who knew biology could be so specific!?!
I am extremely uncomfortable with this decision. Should this not be a whole blanket testosterone issue across ALL Sport? https://t.co/AKA5GEV3iO
— Kelly Sotherton (@KellySotherton) 26 April 2018
And the last part of my anger is, that a bunch of men have decided what it is to be a woman. I cannot think of a bigger insult to the female athlete and coach community than that.
Sorry IAAF, but you have dealt with this is the worst possible way.
Maybe one day we will look back on Caster Semenya for the true hero and track legend she is. A tough, dedicated and phenomenal competitor who was bullied from the moment she stepped on the World stage by the very organisation who was supposed to celebrate her.