The title leaves little room for doubt: «They are kicking us out of sport. Violations of human rights in sex tests of elite athletes ». In 120 pages, that of Human Rights Watch (HRW) – a non-governmental organization for the defense of human rights based in New York – is the toughest and most documented attack on the policy of the International Athletics Federation (World Athletics) against DSD athletes, i.e. with differences in sexual development.
Athletes biologically and legally women, however, identified by doctors and federal observers for their “diversity” and then faced with a crossroads: to take drugs with heavy side effects and / or to undergo surgery or to cease high-level competitive activity among women to compete among men . That of HRW is a document that, with dozens of testimonies and following the thread of the story of Annet Negesa, 28, middle-distance runner of Ugandan elite, tells how behind the rule that governed the participation of DSD girls in track tests over distances between 400 meters and a mile there were abuses and discrimination of all kinds, invasive and unlicensed medical examinations and informed consent by the people involved and even surgical operations to modify hormone production.
All inspired and directed by European doctors, paid by the federation, and exclusively for athletes from the “south of the world” who are often unable to communicate in the language of those who took care of them and in precarious economic conditions.
Negesa tells in the document that, in July 2012, while she was in the final stages of preparation to compete in the 800 meters (where she boasted an excellent record of 1’59 “) at the London Olympics, her manager called her to inform her that she would not participate in the Games: “He told me they had taken the [miei] biological samples and thought they found out my male hormone level was high. And for this reason they couldn’t accept me in the race ». Negesa was both confused and devastated by the news. The manager also informed her that the doctors had requested her presence in France for a medical appointment. “Do you still want to run?” “Yup”. “Then you have to do this and this.”
Before traveling to France in late 2012, Annette realized it wasn’t just about taking drugs. In the meantime, an official of the Ugandan federation dictated the rules of conduct: «He told me to stay home because he was afraid of people’s questions about the Olympics. He asked me to simulate an injury to justify my absence in London“. Negesa explains in the report that a team of white male doctors and a nurse evaluated her in a hospital in Nice. She described hospital procedures consistent with a physical exam, an ultrasound, a blood test, and an MRI of which she was not given any reports. And then explain that she was referred to a doctor in Kampala, the capital of Uganda for an unspecified medical intervention.
In November, a local federation official and her local manager took her to the Women’s Hospital International & Fertility Center in Kampala, where a doctor told her she would perform “surgery as simple as an injection.” But Annet woke up from anesthesia with scars on her abdomen: the discharge report mentions an orchiectomy (removal of the internal testicles) and lists a prescription for post-surgical antibiotics. Negesa suffered from headaches and joint pains in the following years. Back to training, the former bronze medalist at the junior world championships remained very far from the levels of the past so much so that the university she was enrolled in for sporting merits denied her enrollment. Abandoned by her manager, she has enjoyed refugee status in Germany since 2019 and has returned to training albeit at an amateur level.
The reduction of the genital organs is “strongly recommended” in some scientific articles signed by medical consultants of the international federation and judged devoid of any form of ethics from the medical community. The HRW report collects many of these articles, coordinated by Stephane Bermon, federation doctor, and Patrick Feniche, French endocrinologist. In the articles, doctors admit to having proposed “at least four elite female athletes” a “partial clitoridectomy with bilateral gonadectomy followed by vaginoplasty and estrogen-based replacement therapy after obtaining informed consent.” The federation, for its part, has repeatedly stated that “the fairness of the competition is a priority over any other requirement”.
The rule was approved by the IOC and the Court of Sports Arbitration of Lausanne which defined it as “necessary but clearly discriminatory” with a sentence that caused a sensation and is, according to HRW, in clear contrast with the Fundamental Principles 4 and 6 of According to HRW lawyers, who want to bring the athletics federation before the human rights courts, theand DSD rules are totally arbitrary, they involve a series of humiliating and discriminatory tests (an athlete tells of how she underwent the examination of the external genitalia during an anti-doping test by three doctors, one of whom explained that she “did not understand where the urine came from”) and forced to potentially dangerous medical practices. Furthermore, they introduce gender discrimination by pushing the denunciation of athletes (by opponents or technicians) who would present masculine characters with an unacceptable witch hunt that leads girls to situations of marginalization and discomfort.
The conclusion of the HRW Report is as follows: “The rules of sex testing, including those of the international federation on DSD athletes, violate internationally recognized fundamental human rights and discriminate against women on the basis of sex, their external characteristics and their gender expression. Rules that violate privacy and push for unnecessary medical practices. The rules reinforce the stereotype that women belonging to this category are “non-women” and must be “adjusted” with unnecessary medical treatments ».
December 9, 2020 (change December 9, 2020 | 10:32 am)
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