Published September 11, 2009
Gender tests conducted on 18-year-old track sensation Caster Semenya have determined that the South African woman has both male and female sexual characteristics, Australia's Daily Telegraph is reporting.
Semenya blew away the competition at last month’s IAAF World Track & Field Championships in Berlin. But the runner's stunning times, coupled with her muscular build and deep voice, led many to question whether she was, in fact, a woman.
The International Association of Athletics Federations, the governing body of international track and field, ordered gender tests on Semenya that involved a physical medical evaluation and reports from a gynecologist, endocrinologist, psychologist, internal medicine specialist and gender expert.
The Telegraph, citing an unidentified source, reported that they indicate that Semenya is intersex, with both male and female sexual characteristics. The tests reportedly show that Semenya has no uterus or ovaries, and that she has three times more testosterone than a normal woman.
A source closely involved with the IAAF tests said Semenya had internal testes — the male sexual organs that produce testosterone, according to the Telegraph.
According to the National Institutes of Health, intersex, once referred to as hermaphroditism, is a group of conditions where there is a discrepancy between the external genitals and the internal genitals (the testes and ovaries).
Alison Redick, assistant professor of women's studies and a medical historian at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, N.Y., said this is the kind of case that poses the question: What standards are we using for sex and gender?
“Given that testosterone is not an exclusively male hormone — both male and female bodies produce testosterone and estrogen — where do we draw the line?” Redick asked. “And trying to draw that line is always going to be a problem, regardless of what someone’s biology indicates.”
As of Friday, The IAAF refused to confirm or deny the reports and said it is reviewing the test results and will not issue any final decision on her gold medal until November at their meeting in Monaco.
Semenya's father, Jacob, expressed anger when contacted by The Associated Press on Friday, saying people who insinuate his daughter is not a woman "are sick. They are crazy."
Gender testing used to be mandatory for female athletes at the Olympics, but the screenings were dropped in 1999. One reason for the change was that not all women have standard female chromosomes.
There are also cases of people who have ambiguous genitalia or other congenital conditions. The most common cause of sexual ambiguity is congenital adrenal hyperplasia, an endocrine disorder where the adrenal glands produce abnormally high levels of hormones.
FOXNews.com's Karlie Pouliot and the Associated Press contributed to this report.