England’s Lynsey Sharp ran the race of her life at the Rio Olympics.
Still, despite her best personal record, she only came in sixth place in the women’s 800 meters race.
South African Caster Semenya ended up winning the gold, leading Sharp to suggest that competing against Semenya wasn’t exactly fair.
Why is that? Semenya is an intersex athlete.
This doesn’t mean she used to be a man. The term just means that a person doesn’t fit into the standard male/female binary.
Scientifically, Semenya is known as a hyperandrogenic female and could have much more testosterone than most women.
Does this make competing against her difficult?
That’s what Lynsey Sharp seemed to suggest as much during a post-race interview she gave to BBC:
“I have tried to avoid the issue all year. You can see how emotional it all was. We know how each other feels.
It is out of our control and how much we rely on people at the top sorting it out.”
The International Association of Athletics Federations attempted to regulate intersex athletes by requiring that women with high testosterone levels take hormone suppressing drugs.
However, courts recently struck down that ruling, saying that they were “unable to conclude that hyperandrogenic female athletes may benefit from such a significant performance advantage that it is necessary to exclude them from competing in the female category.”
Sharp left it up to the public to decide whether or not they made the right decision:
“The public can see how difficult it is with the change of rule but all we can do is give it our best.”
Many people on Twitter agree with Sharp, suggesting that it was unfair for athletes with an excess of testosterone to compete against “normal” women:
To permit hyperandrogenic athletes to compete as females is to accept they will eventually dominate womens athletics https://t.co/zcOgCNqWNq
— Tim Dracup (@TimDracup) August 21, 2016
Someone tell me where allowing this athlete to compete w/ women is any different than allowing doping. Ridiculous! https://t.co/OCSa08cO0s
— Bill Spielberger (@bspielb) August 22, 2016
What kind of idiocy is this? https://t.co/tp4XQRnUKZ
— Inconceivable One® (@American_hero) August 23, 2016
On the other hand, many people think that forcing athletes to take hormone suppressors, or banning them from the Olympics, is unjust:
An Olympics without genetic advantages? Arbitrary to focus on testosterone in female athletes over other variations https://t.co/uaZ7aFkO5V
— Alexis B Webb (@lexbwebb) August 22, 2016
Shame on you #IAAF and Sebastian Coe! Medicate hyperandrogenic people is negative DOPING. Respect athletes the way GOD made them.
— It's Peter Ormskerk© (@ormcon) August 21, 2016
— Shosh Agus-Kleinman (@ShoshEAK) August 12, 2016
Another Twitter user noted that, were it not for Semenya, Lynsey Sharp would have still only ended up in fifth place:
Lynsey Sharp: if it wasn't for the intersex athlete in that race I might have reached the dizzying height of fifth
— Kaitlyn Plyley (@kplyley) August 21, 2016
Sharp has yet to comment further.
Here is video of her interview: