In a not so shocking consequence following the Court Arbitration of Sport’s ruling in favor of the International Association of Athletic Federations’ so called “Semenya Rule.” The Kenyan National Team officially dropped two of their athletes from the national team preparing for the IAAF World Relays Championship in Japan due to high testosterone levels.

The move which left Kenya’s 100m and 200m champion Maximila Imali and 400m specialist Evangeline-Makena off the team came after the reinstitution of the IAAF’s Semenya Rule which place a strict limitation on levels of naturally produced testosterone in female athletes up t0 5/nmol. While the rule itself only applies to runners in the 400m, 800m and 1500m events, it appears that Kenya is not taken any chances by leaving Imali off the team.

The new policy has been heavily criticized and led to a heated debate regarding the role of naturally produced testosterone in female athletes and sports performance. The rule appears targeted at Caster Semenya, a track athlete from South Africa who specializes in the 800m who also lives with hyperandrogenism. After her successes at the World Championships and Olympics, Semenya has undergone criticisms and challenges to her gender, dignity and rights as a human being.

Hyperandrogenism is a condition in which a female produces naturally high levels of “androgens” or anabolic hormones such as testosterone. Proponents of the rule argue that athletes with hyperandrogenism have a genetic advantage over their competitors while critics label the rule as another attempt to regulate women’s bodies. For athletes who are affected by the rule and have testosterone levels about 5/nmol must take medication to artificially lower their testosterone levels to be eligible to compete. Currently, this is the only rule in place in international sports that regulates so called “genetic advantages” in athletes.

“We could not risk travelling with the two athletes after the recent IAAF ruling on the restriction of testosterone levels on female runners took effect on May 8,” Athletics Kenya (AK) director of competitions Paul Mutwii told AFP. 

Imali also lives with Hyperandrogenism and has undergone testing in the past. She was withdrawn from the 2015 World Championships in Beijing also due to her testosterone levels. The 2015 incident was when she first learned she had Hyperandrogenism. In sharing about the most recent exclusion from the team, Imali remarked…

“We were summoned for the blood tests at the team hotel last Friday and when the report came out on Monday, Athletics Kenya officials inform us about the result outcome,” Imali told AFP, adding it was not the first time that she learnt about her medical issue.

“This is a scheme to demoralise us. I am not ready to quit athletics, nor to take a suppressant treatment. I am so happy the way God made me to be.”

By Dirk Smith