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  1. #1
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    "Unfair Genetic Advantage"

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    Caught this article in my twitter feed. As is typical with slashdot you may or may not care for the comments

    http://science.slashdot.org/story/09...eone-Is-Female

    So, let me get this straight. Usain Bolt shatters world records and he's awesome, a really stellar athlete, but we're not testing him for "unfair genetic advantages" (though I imagine the doping control is all over him). This woman shatters world records and she must be a man, baby.

    What really is an "unfair genetic advantage" vs. a "fair genetic advantage" anyway? You're already talking to the statistically excellent representations of their gender, world record and olympic athletes. I guess this is the statistical outlier to the statistical outlier.

    And what are transgendered people (especially MtF) really to do? Not compete at all? Is their inherent genetic "advantage" really an advantage after hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery? Any moreso than a statistically tall/athletic woman born a woman?

    I guess they really are difficult questions, and it goes to show how competitive and categorical humans really are.

    (Totally OT: Reminds me of the Futurama episode where Bender competes as a fem-bot and has to have his oil changed. Hail, hail, Robonia... the land that I didn't make up!)

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by colby View Post
    (Totally OT: Reminds me of the Futurama episode where Bender competes as a fem-bot and has to have his oil changed. Hail, hail, Robonia... the land that I didn't make up!)
    OK- that's totally what I thought of, too. Glad to know my warped little mind is not alone.
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  3. #3
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    So...

    The International Association of Athletics Federation ordered Semenya to take the tests after she made remarkable improvements in her performances in recent months.



    She makes remarkable improvements and instead of thinking she's doping, they think she's XXY?

  4. #4
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    I read about this a few days ago. I'm glad I don't have to make a decision about this. It's an ugly situation and there is no way to rule on this and come out without being a bad guy.

    Let's say that she was born female, raised female, and has a genetic abnormality that gives her the benefits of a male athlete. Does this really mean that she can't compete as a woman? If I were another woman trying to compete against her, I'd probably say that she shouldn't be allowed to compete. If I were her... I'd ask where the hell else I should be allowed to compete (since she's doesn't have all the equipment to be considered a man, as evidenced by fellow athletes who have seen her in the buff).

    I have to be honest. Have you seen pictures of her? A genetic abnormality is definitely not out of the question. I don't blame them for thinking XXY rather than doping.

    What frustrates me is how public this is. She's handling herself with outstanding and amazing dignity.
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  5. #5
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    Gosh, if all this goes through, then will all these orgs start testing everyone (only seems "fair") for some acute, genetic advantage? And what will be on the list of genetic advantages?

    While watching universal sports they did a Phelps profile and his whole physic gives him an advantage over others, so is that fair or unfair? What about height advantages?

    Geemanies, this could just get crazier and crazier.

  6. #6
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    I had actually already thought that it was standard practice to test athletes for the XXY or other variations just because we went over this debate in high school biology. But I guess it never got implemented. There are some other adrenal conditions that even if you are genetically female disqualify you as competing as a female...


    The olympics also disqualifies legless people from running with their artificial legs because they have an unfair advantage...

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Catriona View Post
    I had actually already thought that it was standard practice to test athletes for the XXY or other variations just because we went over this debate in high school biology. But I guess it never got implemented. There are some other adrenal conditions that even if you are genetically female disqualify you as competing as a female...


    The olympics also disqualifies legless people from running with their artificial legs because they have an unfair advantage...

    There was a bit on NPR about this case this morning. There was at one point regular sex testing, but because it became such a difficult question - what truly does constitute being "male" or being "female" they ended up having to discontinue it. Determining sex for someone who is ambiguous can go so far beyond primary sexual characteristics - looking like a male or a female, even beyond chomosomal make up that it became impossible to even define sex, much less test for it.....

    It does lead to really difficult questions doesn't it - I don't think anyone can deny that there are definitely differences between men and women physically. Even though our best female cyclists around here can beat a great many of the guys, the best guys will still always beat them.
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by witeowl View Post
    What frustrates me is how public this is. She's handling herself with outstanding and amazing dignity.
    Certainly I would love to read of her story one day...years from now when all of this will be behind her. Regardless of her gender situation, she is a great athlete.
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  9. #9
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    Post mortem autopsy on Secretariat revealed an abnormally large heart.

    Lance has an unusual cardio capacity.

    In different circumstance, a genetic advantage is called "a blessing".

    If she is naturally what she is, then I believe you leave her alone. When competition requires genetic testing to determine eligibility, then there's something wrong.
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  10. #10
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    I think it's awful. The poor woman. I was very much a tomboy growing up. I refused to wear dresses, I played sports, I beat the boys, I was muscular as a child and I was 17 before I'd kissed my first boy. It wasn't that I didn't like boys, they just weren't interested in me. How could they be? How many teenage boys LIKE being beaten by a girl? I can totally see why she hasn't has a boyfriend at 18...it's got to be hard to be built like she is...

    And seriously, how can they say that just because she's not 'feminine' that she can't compete? I mean sure...if she were taking drugs to be that way (like the East German women's swim team), then yes, ban her. But a natural advantage? Doesn't every single world class athlete have a genetic advantage? If they didn't, they'd just be like us and not breaking world records, right? The best basketball players are tall, the best swimmers have long arms, the best gymnasts are small and muscular, the best endurance athletes have advanced cardiovascular abilities, and the best cyclists are light if they are climbers and strong if they are sprinters. I mean, if it turns out that even though she's got female genitalia, she's got some other advantage due to a high testosterone level or something, then where does the line EVER get drawn??
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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eden View Post
    Determining sex for someone who is ambiguous can go so far beyond primary sexual characteristics - looking like a male or a female, even beyond chomosomal make up that it became impossible to even define sex, much less test for it.....
    It's the same with DNA, now that they have documented cases of human chimera - people with two distinct and separate DNA compositions in various (but unknown) parts of their body.

    I think that the blending of science and sport has gone way too far.

    PS: I'd love to have her bulging biceps and triceps on me! My goodness, she looks strong!
    Last edited by Mr. Bloom; 08-23-2009 at 03:05 AM.
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  12. #12
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    Don't get me started--just because she doesn't conform to society's (and, let's face it, pretty much white society's) standard for female appearance, she's assumed to be a man. Sad. Sad.

    Gender has gray zones. Despite what we'd like to believe, gender is a continuum. As one article I read stated...we'd like to believe that nature makes two nice buckets of people: male and female, but, you know, nature is a slob and it isn't the case.

    I thought this essay put it nicely...
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/22/sp...semenya&st=cse

  13. #13
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    I agree with nearly all of what's been said. The trouble is, it leads down a road most of us probably don't want to go down. If there isn't a bright line between male and female (which I agree there isn't), should there be separate competitive categories for men and women? And if not, where does that leave the talented women athletes - including Semenya - who simply didn't develop with the same amount of testosterone as those whom we consider "men"?
    Last edited by OakLeaf; 08-23-2009 at 05:53 PM.
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  14. #14
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    It's unfair for the individual - it's happened before and people had to give up their careers - but it's also unfair to the other women if an elevated testosterone level helped her develop to the level she's competing at.

    Apparently the South African athletic association was aware of it (they already did a test this spring) and they even have an Ex-GDR coach who was involved in steroid doping back in the GDR days, and it is presumed that her testosterone levels were artificially reduced before competitions to evade tests.

    By the way (this is really mean but what a coincidence) - her name is an anagram of Yes a secret man...
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  15. #15
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    Colby asked: "And what are transgendered people (especially MtF) really to do? Not compete at all? Is their inherent genetic "advantage" really an advantage after hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery? Any moreso than a statistically tall/athletic woman born a woman?"

    That question was pretty neatly answered by the experience of Janet Furman Bowman.

    Janet Furman Bowman was a pretty serious competitive runner (and kept excellent records) when she was a man, and continued running after she became a woman.

    Her experience of the level of effort was the same, though her times dropped enormously. But, within the women's category she was in the same percentile as when she raced in the men's category.

    No advantage to having been male for several decades. www.pfc.org.uk/files/A_Six_Minute_Difference.pdf

    If Semenya isn't doping or cheating, if her body is naturally as powerful as it is during these races, then I just don't see how disqualifying her for the way God made her can at all be fair.

    ETA: I liked some of the comments on slashdot. Two in particular. The idea that athletic competition is divided into "definitely female" and "everyone else." (making the division meaningless anyway) Also the idea that all competitive athletes have advantages over "normal" people, that's why they are competitive athletes; so why kick out a competitive athlete who naturally has an advantage over other competitive athletes? I bookmarked slashdot, lots of fun nerd stuff there!
    Last edited by KnottedYet; 08-23-2009 at 08:09 AM.
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