Gender Verification suspended on trial basis at Sydney Olympics

Classification: News

Women athletes at the summer games in Sydney won't be required to submit to "gender verification." The International Olympic Committee, at its June 1999 meeting in Seoul, decided to discontinue gender verification on a "trial basis." The IOC's decision follows a discontinuation of routine gender verification by the International Amateur Athletic Federation in 1992, and denunciations of gender verification by the IOC's Athlete's Commission and the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Physicians, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, teh Endocrine Society, the Lawson Wilkins Pediatric Endocrine Society, and the American Society of Human Genetics.

For 30 years, the Olympics have required all female athletes to submit to gender verification. "Gender Verification No More?" by physician Myron Genel in Medscape Women's Health (registration required, but free of charge) notes that a variety of procedures have been used, some of them "crude and demeaning," and none free of contradiction. At the Atlanta Olympics, the tests revealed eight women (of 3387 tested) who had androgen insensitivity or 5-alpha reductase deficiency. In some cases, women who "failed" the test were instructed to feign injury, or actually fitted with casts.

The IOC hasn't completely eliminated its interest in sexual anatomy of female athletes, however. The decision to suspend gender verification apparently depended in part on the opportunity for officials to gain a peek at athletes' genitals during doping testing, which requires freshly voided urine.