The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), the highest judicial avenue in global sport, early this week cleared young Indian sprinter Dutee Chand to compete again, upholding her appeal against the suspension imposed by the world athletics governing body. The International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) had barred the athlete due to hyperandrogenism, a condition marked by the presence of more than acceptable levels of testosterone, the male sex hormone. The condition is seen as giving undue advantage to her over fellow women athletes, but Dutee can compete for now. The CAS has given two years to the athletics body for providing conclusive evidence backing its eligibility rule, which proves that women with hyperandrogenism enjoy a clear advantage.
As far as the Indian track and field and larger sporting communities are concerned, it eases the agony of Dutee — she refused to undergo hormone treatment or surgery when the issue flared up last year — and she can focus on trying to qualify for next year’s Rio Olympics. The Odisha runner from a humble background showed remarkable resilience through the harrowing period since the ban was imposed last year while questions about her athletic future and even her identity flew thick and fast. Dutee and all those who backed her should be commended for ensuring it did not turn into another fiasco like the one involving Santhi Soundarajan, who was left devastated and confused after her 2006 Doha Asian Games 800m silver medal was disqualified over a failed gender test. The daughter of brick-kiln workers even went to the extent of attempting suicide. South Africa’s women’s 800m champion Caster Semenya also faced questions about her gender in 2009, and the IAAF came under heavy criticism for its insensitive handling of the case.
However, the issue is far from settled. The world athletics body is in a bind as it must draw a line to ensure no questions are raised over a level playing field. Not everyone with naturally enhanced levels of testosterone may have an advantage. It is a situation to which nobody seems to have any conclusive answer.