When we think about Olympic athletes, many of us picture them as having superhuman abilities. The abilities that allow them to excel at their sports leave us all in awe, but only when those athletes happen to be white and male.
Caster Semenya, a Black female, is an 800m Olympic Champion from South Africa that has dealt with massive amounts of scrutiny for her speed. She recently lost a legal battle against the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) over them trying to force her to take medication to lower the amount of testosterone in her body in order to compete internationally in events between 400m and a mile. Semenya has been undefeated in the 800m since 2015 and her critics are claiming that her successes are invalid because her body produces more testosterone than most women. Many people have celebrated the ruling of Semenya's legal case against the IAAF because they believed it was unfair for her to compete while having a genetic advantage.
You may believe this is an attempt to level the playing field among the athletes, but in reality, this ruling is only showcasing the blatant hatred the IAAF and the rest of society have towards black women. And before anyone claims that I am "pulling the race card," let's bring up Michael Phelps.
He is admired and respected by people across the globe for his Olympic achievements, and yet, no one seems to care that he also has a few genetic advantages over his fellow competitors. For example, Phelps has an incredibly long wingspan and double-jointed ankles that help his kick range. Not only that, but his body produces half the amount of lactic acid of an average person, which allows him to not be as quickly fatigued as the other athletes.
Shouldn't Phelps be forced to change these attributes or be prevented from competing? Why is it that he is described as being born to compete, but Semenya is labeled as a cheat? The only differences between them are their races and genders. I can assure you that if Semenya was also a white male, she would have millions of people marveling at her talents and her unique genes. Instead, the IAAF and every other racist misogynist on the planet are doing everything they can to discredit and dehumanize her.
Semenya's legal case against the IAAF has also shown the transphobia in sports. Semenya is not transgender, but the amount of testosterone in her body has caused transphobes to call her a man and demand that she compete amongst men. The label of being transgender has been thrown around like an insult as if it were a bad thing. The idea that Semenya has too much testosterone to be considered a woman is absurd because the amount of testosterone in someone's blood does not decide that person's gender.
The IAAF claims that the maximum amount of testosterone their female athletes can have is five nanomoles per liter of blood. Since Semenya's testosterone levels are over this limit, she can no longer compete without taking medication to lower the amount of testosterone in her blood. A question that Monica Hesse asks her readers in an article for the Washington Post best explains how idiotic it is to equate being female to having a certain amount of testosterone in your blood. She asked,
"So, if you were forced to submit to a testosterone test, would you bet your livelihood and your identity on the hope that your measurements would turn up on the correct side of the line? If they didn't, would you alter your identity based on this new data — or might you argue that your personhood was more than a number?"
After the news broke of the results of Semenya's case against the IAFF, she shared her new ad with Nike where her voiceover asks,
"Would it be easier for you if I wasn't so fast? Would it be simpler for you if I stopped winning?"
Despite the IAAF's efforts to bully her and diminish her achievements, Semenya will continue to come out on top and be a role model for young women around the world.