Former Australian 800m athlete Madeleine Pape says her research has revealed there is a growing perception that African countries are likely to have women athletes with high testosterone and are also actively recruiting them for training in athletics.
Making a presentation in a session titled “The High T Anxiety: The Controversial New Policy of The IAAF” during the IWG Conference on 20th May in Gaborone, Pape said this became clearer in her research on Hyperandrogenism in sports.
“Another crucial finding amongst the athletes and stakeholders I interviewed, again the majority of these come from countries like the United States, Canada, United Kigndom, Australia and European countries, there is no question that amongst these interviewees, black women from Africa and to some extent women from India also, were viewed as more suspect or more likely to have high testosterone than White women or women from the global north,” Pape said.
“In other words, this problem of women athletes with high testosterone levels was viewed widely as an African problem. This is corroborated in the research of people like Dr Katrina Karkazis who has found similar ideas in the language of IAAF decision makers and IOC decision makers and representatives of commissions at conferences she has been attending,” she alleged.
“For example, one manager stated that he believed that soon there is going to be a woman with high testosterone on every African team,” Pape continued.
Pape added that some athletes even shared rumours that coaches and managers were going to remote African villages to try to find young women with high testosterone and train them to be superstar athletes.
“It was rumoured that African countries were systematically trying to identify these women, trying to seek them out to train them and exploit them,” Pape said.
The former Australian 800m athlete said as a feminist scholar with an understanding of post colonial perspectives on gender, the rumours are very troubling.
“Here we have a case of white people in the global north claiming to be morally superior to countries in Africa. White people in the global north constructing stories about and objectifying bodies of African women,” she said.
“There is this idea that high testosterone is a defect that is occurring amongst African women rather than in the white bodies of women in the global north which we know is not true. High testosterone occurs in women all over the world but this is not how the story is told,” said Pape.
For her part, IWG Gaborone 2017 Secreatry General Game Mothibi said the new IAAF policy on Hyperandrogenism can be construed as having undertones of inequality and racism as most of the people with hyperandrogenism are Africans.
She said the new rules may therefore affect and target African women athletes and called for more scrutiny into the new rules as they may also infringe on human rights.