Talent is not an ‘unfair advantage’

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Caster Semenya competing in the London 2012 Olympics.  Photo by    Citizen59    via Flickr

Caster Semenya competing in the London 2012 Olympics. Photo by Citizen59 via Flickr

Two-time Olympian Caster Semenya has faced challenges outside of track and field. She was only 18 when she won gold during an 800-meter race in Berlin, and was later awarded the Order of Ikhamanga, a recognition of achievement by President Zuma of South Africa. In Zuma’s proclamation, Semenya was praised for making “running look like poetry in motion.” But, despite these accomplishments on the field, Semenya has faced challenges outside of the track.  

Recently, the highest court in international sports, the Court of Arbitration for Sport, ruled that female athletes with raised levels of testosterone are required to take hormone suppressants before competing in certain races. This new regulation applies specifically to Semenya, who has been the center of controversy for years. After winning gold for the first time in 2008, the Olympian was barred from future competitions and subject to sex testing. The testing was requested by the International Association of Athletics Federations, the governing body of track and field. In response to the testing, Semenya stated, “God made me the way I am, and I accept myself.”  

The athlete’s family also had things to say in regards to this new sex testing. Her father and grandmother told local news media that she was “always raised as a girl.” Regardless, Semenya was forced to undergo the gender verification test, and the results were leaked not long after. And although the test did reveal Semenya to be born female, it also indicated that she had elevated levels of testosterone. This, however, was not the end of Semenya’s tribulations. 

Though she was identified as female, the information revealed by the gender verification test was then used to require Semenya to take hormone suppressants before competitions. When she challenged this decision, the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled against her, stating that she had an “unfair advantage.” This claim has raised controversy world-wide, and people across the globe have weighed in on the subject. American tennis player Billie Jean King stated that this decision would “prevent Semenya from competing as her authentic self.”  

And with this frame of mind, it’s important to consider other athlete-heroes. Take Usain Bolt, for instance. The “fastest man in history,” with world records in the 100-meter, 200-meter and 4×100-meter. Bolt has never once been called into question for his advantages on the field. His genetic make-up, arguably, has a hand in his success. Perhaps even he has raised levels of testosterone, relative to males. But this has never been a consideration, and Bolt has never been stripped of his natural-born “advantages.” 

Semenya should not have her edge taken from her. Being born with talent is not the same as doping. We’re all made differently, and that’s what makes us unique and special — and able to compete in these contests — so why would anyone want to take that away? How is that fair? 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by individual writers in the opinion section do not reflect the views and opinions of The Daily Campus or other staff members. Only articles labeled “Editorial” are the official opinions of The Daily Campus.


Samantha Bertolini is a contributor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at samantha.bertolini@uconn.edu.

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