Negesa suffered headaches and achy ts in the years after.
This report provides an overview of the nearly century-long history of sex testing of women athletes, details how and where such testing continues today, and identifies the human rights issues at stake. But she woke up from anesthesia with scars on her abdomen, and discharge papers mentioned an orchiectomy removal of internal testes and listed a prescription for post-surgical antibiotics.
The experts wrote:. The stipulations of the World Athletics regulations are contradictory when it comes to privacy. But she never regained her fitness levels, and the university cancelled her scholarship at the end of Her international manager ceased contacting her in Today, she lives in Germany, where the government granted her asylum in Through their policies, sport governing bodies have created environments that coerce some women into invasive and unnecessary medical interventions as a condition to compete in certain events, and sports officials have engaged in vitriolic public criticism that has ruined careers and lives.
In doing so they failed to apply international human rights standards.
Negesa told Human Rights Watch that a team of white male doctors and a woman nurse assessed her at a hospital in Nice. Women from the Global South have been disproportionately affected.
Scrutiny, targeting, testing, rumors, and exposure of athletes by peers, coaches, athletics federations, and government sporting officials—often without the athletes knowing what is going on—can have profound negative psychological repercussions. A team consisting of a Human Rights Watch researcher and two academic researchers conducted research for this report. A woman moving from the female category to the male or hypothetical intersex category would result in immediate disclosure that her hormones were above the threshold, and possibly other private anatomical characteristics.
There have never been analogous regulations for men. She never got the testand continued to train for the and meter races, traveling to Europe in early Then in Julywhile Negesa was in the final stages of preparing to run at the London Olympics, her manager called her and informed her that she could not attend the Games. Human rights standards apply to all of the relevant actors. Success in athletics can deliver material dividends for women.
It was when she traveled to France in July that she learned about the surgery. Moreover, the impossible choices athletes face under the current regulations mean if they undergo a medical procedure to alter their naturally-occurring hormones in order to continue competing, they have not undertaken the procedure with the conditions necessary to meet the standard of full informed consent.
Governments that host sporting events are responsible to protect against human rights violations on their soil, and to protect the athletes they send to international competitions run by sport governing bodies. She was eventually barred from competing in the female category at the Commonwealth Games and her name was leaked to the press. Ensuring that each athlete is qualified to compete in the appropriate category in sports competitions may be legitimate, but any such regulation deed to achieve this end must be justified as reasonable, necessary, and proportionate.
Such domestic law, in conformity with international human rights obligations, needs to be applicable to and in practice be applied to sport governing bodies. After a painful, months-long recovery, Negesa began training again at university. They have condemned these practices as unscientific, unethical, and violations of domestic and international human rights laws.
Governments are obligated to protect the rights of athletes representing their countries and competing on their soil. This entity known prior to as the International Association of Athletics Federations, or IAAF is the body that governs international athletics, and the regulations it has promulgated have resulted in the profiling and targeting of women according to gender stereotypes.
Please give now to support our work. The body that enforces these practices for athletics—the group of sporting events that involves competitive running, jumping, throwing, and walking—is not a government or multilateral body, but a private one, World Athletics. Both athlete and physician, some of whom work at the behest of sport governing bodies, are thus put in a position of compromised medical ethics as a result of sex testing regulations.
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Sex testing violates a range of internationally protected fundamental rights including to privacy, dignity, health, non-discrimination, freedom from ill-treatment, and employment rights. The global sporting industry is regulated by a complex system of local, national, regional, and international governmental and nongovernmental entities—including sport governing bodies—that have different relationships with official human rights mechanisms.
Some of the athletes interviewed grew up in abject poverty. Help us continue to fight human rights abuses. The failure of these governing entities to recognize, much less incorporate, human rights protections in their policy-making and enforcement processes has resulted in fragmented and inadequate protection for women athletes. The governing bodies are engaged in commercial activities, and are therefore expected to follow the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Surveillance policy is only intensifying.
The policies also put physicians, sporting bodies, and governments in precarious positions of being implicated in violations of privacy, dignity, health, and non-discrimination protections.
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Interviewees described intense self-questioning, shame, and withdrawal from sport—even when it was their livelihood—and attempting suicide. Sport governing bodies have been unmoved by these critiques and have continued to develop and apply sex testing policies that violate fundamental rights.
Download the Summary and Recommendations in French.
Athletes interviewed for this report said that rumors fueled by the regulations were ruinous for them. For example, one runner said that before the rumors of her having high testosterone were mentioned in the media, people in her community and at athletics meets started rumors that raised questions about her sex characteristics.
It was later revealed that athletics bodies forced her to take medically unnecessary drugs to lower her testosterone so that she could keep competing. She said:. By enforcing these regulations, World Athletics effectively coerces women athletes into medical testing and interventions that have no health purpose or benefit.
Women who choose to drop out of sport or change events to avoid being targeted, tested, or intervened upon under such policies may also face harmful speculation or violations of their privacy. In such circumstances, national governments are failing to ensure the conditions for informed consent.
The standards of femininity applied are often deeply racially biased. The economic barriers to entry in athletics are lower than in some other sports, largely because running requires less equipment than, for example, some team sports that use more costly devices and facilities.
These punitive regulations push them into unnecessary medical procedures that are conducted in coercive environments in which humiliated women are forced to choose between their careers and their basic rights. Sport governing bodies are the gatekeepers to competition and wield extraordinary powers over women athletes. This report finds that the human rights violations that such testing involves have taken place under the veneer of purportedly evidence-based policies that sport governing bodies have presented as necessary to ensure fairness in competition, even though the science behind them is contested.
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On the one hand, they proclaim to assure the confidentiality of the targeted athletes. She described hospital procedures consistent with a physical exam, an ultrasound, a blood test, and an MRI. Negesa did not receive any documents at the appointment; she was told to visit a doctor in Kampala for surgery. World Athletics eligibility regulations for the female classification constitute a continuation of the historic harms of sex testing, and do more than just drive women out of sport: they ruin lives.
Download the Summary and Recommendations in Spanish. Download the Background and Timeline insert. Athletics officials identified testosterone as the primary driver of athleticism, selected a scientifically specious threshold for functional endogenous testosterone that they deemed confers a performance advantage, and ascribed an unfair advantage to women with natural testosterone above this level. Athletes experience multi-faceted coercion under the regulations.
Yet CAS has proven to be an inadequate justice mechanism for women athletes in particular.
Annet Negesa, a middle-distance runner from Uganda, does not know when she first caught the attention of athletics officials, but the testing began in First, in May, there was a routine urine doping test at the African Junior Championships in Botswana. The regulations create extensive burdens for women athletes both within and outside sport. Initially, Negesa understood that possible medical steps would involve taking medication. Their success in athletics became a source of livelihood not only for them, but often for their extended families.
In some circumstances, success at athletics can also lead to stable employment outside sport. While testing athletes for doping is a legitimate aim, the use of doping test data to target women athletes under sex testing regulations is not. Sport governing bodies have a particularly prominent role in regulating sport around the world.
Sport governing bodies and human rights
As the evidence documented in this report shows, that reconsideration should take place immediately. A few days later, a national athletics federation official contacted Negesa.
Then, if the athlete is successful, she can earn income at competitions and via sponsorships. Moreover, appeals to CAS can be prohibitively expensive for individual athletes. The insularity of the global sporting industry does not exempt its brokers from human rights standards. The fact that there is only such a regulation for women—and none for men—means the regulations are intrinsically discriminatory against women. This implicates physicians, the athletics associations that hire them to implement the regulations, and governments in human rights violations.
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Despite upholding the regulations, the panel recognized that evidence of actual ificant athletic advantage for women athletes with higher-than-typical natural testosterone in certain regulated events was inconclusive, and flagged the issue of possible adverse side effects of hormonal treatment on these athletes. An athlete who had been tested and subsequently disqualified told Human Rights Watch:. Infor example, the special rapporteur on the right to health; the special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; and the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law wrote a letter to IAAF condemning their new regulations.
Rather, their agreement to testing has occurred in a situation of coercion since they are not medically necessary procedures and only the product of arbitrary requirements to compete. I am a woman and I am fast. Athletics regulations have resulted in profiling and targeting women according to often racialized gender stereotypes, which has a deleterious impact on all women.
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Sex testing regulations, including the World Athletics regulations and its precursors, and the manner in which they are implemented—including their repercussions—discriminate against women on the basis of their sex, their sex characteristics, and their gender expression. Her European manager accompanied her.
Regulating fair play is a valid undertaking for sport authorities; committing human rights violations in the process is not. Download the full report in English. The mandated exams, tests, and procedures are medically unnecessary and have no therapeutic value for the individual. Human Rights Watch research indicates that athletes are often given only partial information at the outset of a testing process or investigation; they are then often presented with options for medical interventions without genuinely being given a choice.
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Research was carried out in Africa and Asia between July and November We do not name specific countries in the report for security reasons. Infor example, the IAAF disqualified South African runner Caster Semenya on the grounds that her testosterone levels were too high, sparking global outrage over the practice of sex testing women athletes. Appendix: World Athletics Ineligibility Letter. Governments and sport governing bodies should act swiftly to rescind the regulations.
Women targeted by the regulations have the option of taking their case to CAS, based in Lausanne, Switzerland.