CAPE TOWN – Cultural anthropologist Katrina Karkazis, the author of Testosterone: An Unauthorised Biography, warned about the health effects of athletes taking suppressants for high levels of testosterone.
The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has proposed new regulations that will force athletes middle distance athletes like double Olympic champion Caster Semenya to take suppressants to compete in middle-distance races.
Semenya is looking to overturn this policy at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
Karkazis contributed to Indian sprinter Dutee Chand’s successful appeal of the IAAF’s testosterone regulation at the CAS and served as an expert witness in the hearing in 2015, a case similar in nature to Semenya’s.
She says there are no health benefits to Semenya or any other individual taking suppressants.
“Lowering testosterone is not benign. It’s not the same as lowering cholesterol where there’s a perceived benefit to the individuals when it’s done. In fact, there can be quite grave short-term and long-term consequences of lowering testosterone in women depending upon how it’s done. So this is not a medical intervention that’s done for the health benefit of the women. They would be lowering it because the regulation requires it, not because a doctor says that this is necessary or beneficial for the women’s health and they’re the kinds of health effects that are especially detrimental to elite athletes.”
Karkazis explained some of the side effects for Semenya if she took testosterone medication
“They can include dehydration, mood changes, problems with metabolic regulation, fatigue, cramping and other kinds of issues. So these are not benign interventions.”
Karkazis also touched on the concern from the United Nations, the organization questioned the ethics behind the IAAF policy.
“The UN has stepped in to make a statement that they’re very concerned that these kinds of regulations violate bodily autonomy and dignity and Foster discrimination against women.”