How Dutee Chand fought to run, then ran to win
“People don’t see the extensive work that goes into winning a medal. Every day, I train. On the track, in the gym, thrice a day. I left my house at a young age, and haven’t lived with my family. I don’t even spend holidays with them. When I lose, they’ll say, Dutee has grown old. Her age is against her. When I win a medal, they think it’s hyperandrogenism. No one thinks of the hard work I’ve put in.”
This was what 22-year-old sprinter Dutee Chand said only a few months ago. Hindustan Times had visited her in Hyderabad, where the athlete lives and trains, shortly after the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) published its new rules concerning hyperandrogenism in women athletes.
The amended rules titled ‘Eligibility regulations for the female classification (Athletes with differences of sex development)’, which were published in April, regulate women athletes’ participation in international track and field events based on their level of naturally-occurring testosterone.
Chand, who had been dropped from the 2014 Commonwealth Games on account of having more than the then prescribed limit, had challenged these rules at the Centre for Arbitration of Sport (CAS) in Lausanne, and won. IAAF’s new rules are an outcome of this case — 100m, the category Chand runs in, is exempt.
In the past four years, Chand has felt her humiliation keenly—from people in her village who asked her point blank whether she was a man to news reports that declared her as one. Calling her gender into question was also an insidious way of questioning Chand’s capability as a professional woman athlete. A punishing training schedule was overlooked, and biases surrounding gender and sex took over people’s perceptions.
Which is why Chand’s spectacular finish on Sunday, in 11.32 seconds to bring home silver, is significant. She did not, as the rules had then suggested, undergo medical intervention or quit. She fought her case and IAAF amended its rules. Now, women athletes with a free testosterone level higher than 5 nmol/l competing in categories from 400m to one mile races will need to lower it if they wish to remain eligible. Not surprisingly, the new rules too have been challenged at CAS, this time by South African athlete Caster Semenya.
The shifting goalposts, whether of testosterone limits or of competitive categories, affect everyone - it’s not just women like Chand or Semenya who come under scrutiny, but all women athletes, irrespective of their own levels, who are being subjected to an imposition on naturally-occurring hormone levels.
Which is why Chand is two times a winner: she fought to run, and she ran to win.
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