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WMA In War Of Words With IAAF Over Athletes Testosterone Testing Of Intersex Athletes

By Published May 09, 2019

Following last week’s Court of Arbitration for Sport rejection of South Africa's double Olympic 800 metres champion Caster Semenya’s appeal against the IAAF's 'eligibility regulations for the female classification', the World Medical Association immediately disassociated themselves from engaging in any testing of athlete’s testosterone level for performance eligibility.

WMA president Dr Leonid Eidelman said: "We have strong reservations about the ethical validity of these regulations. They are based on weak evidence from a single study, which is currently being widely debated by the scientific community. Dr Leonid Eidelman then call on the organisation's 114 member associations, which include the British Medical Association to not engage in any testing of athletes.

In swift response, the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) says it "strongly disagrees" with the WMA doctor’s call to refuse to help intersex athletes lower their testosterone so they can compete in female races, publishing detailed notes on the regulations, which include answers to the 12 most common questions it has received from journalists, and an open letter to Dr Eidelman.

Dismissing the claim the regulations are based "on a single study", the IAAF says they are supported by "many scientific publications and observations from the field during the last 15 years" and CAS has "accepted the validity of this evidence".

On the issue of whether doctors should intervene with treatment for a condition that does not involve an illness, the IAAF "respectfully reminds" the WMA that international guidelines for differences of sex development call for "extensive investigation" to "clarify" the individual's gender.

This could then lead, the IAAF says, to a "suitable form of treatment" to reduce testosterone, which may include removing the male gonads as there is often a heightened risk of cancer.

The letter, which is signed by the chair of the IAAF's board of medical experts on differences of sex development, Professor Angelica Linden Hirschberg, the University of Michigan's Professor Richard Auchus and IAAF health and science department director Dr Stephane Bermon, then points out that while CAS agreed the regulations are "discriminatory" it also believes they are "proportionate".

"Therefore, the IAAF strongly disagrees with the WMA reservations about the ethical validity of the IAAF regulations."

Semenya has said nothing publicly since telling reporters at the season's first Diamond League meeting in Doha on Friday that she has no intention of taking drugs to reduce her testosterone or step up to the 5,000 metres, which is not yet one of the "restricted events".

As of last Wednesday, she had 30 days to decide if she wanted to take her fight to the Swiss federal courts but there has been no word on this as yet.

That said, her most recent Twitter post was a picture of a clenched fist with the word "Resist" underneath.

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