Essay on Testosterone in Sports

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Talent is an accident of genes - and a responsibility. –Alan Rickman It has been long debated who or what we should attribute our athleticism to. Is athleticism a product of hard work or a result of athletic parents who passed along athletic genes? Should we attribute athleticism to hard work or science? People generally fall into one of the two categories when explaining athleticism. Athletes are always looking for a competitive advantage in sports. Many athletes have turned to steroids and testosterone boosters to excel performance. Substance users have been labeled cheaters because they have an unfair advantage. Does having a naturally high testosterone level give an athlete a fair advantage? The article I chose, “Time to re-evaluate gender segregation in athletics?” by Bennett Foddy and Julian Savelescu, aims to address that very question. Men and women are segregated in athletics to foster an even playing field. Billy Jean-King aside, nobody expects women to be able to compete with men in sports. Men produce higher testosterone levels than women, giving them an athletic advantage, therefore men and women must be segregated in sports to keep the playing field even. However, testosterone levels in men and women vary. For example, Caster Semenya won gold in the 2009 women’s world championship in the 800m swim. The International Association of Athletic Federation (IAAF) tested her for enhancing drugs and for being a man. The results of the drug test were negative. The results of the gender test are kept confidential for privacy. The results are unimportant. The article focuses on what Semenya’s case means for anti-doping, for women’s sports, and for competitive sports in general. Interestingly, it is easier to ascertain whether one is taking steroids than it is to determine whether one is male or female. Normally men have an X and a Y chromosome, while women normally have two X chromosomes. Males normally have penises and testes while women have vaginas, uteri and ovaries. Men generally produce higher levels of testosterone. If men and women had the same levels of testosterone, there would be no reason to segregate sports into men’s and women’s leagues (Foddy & Savulescu, 2010, p.1184). The problem arises in “intersex” conditions when, people with XX chromosomes look and run like men, and XY people who look and run like women. When a genetic male is born with X and Y chromosomes, but suffers from androgen insensitivity syndrome (AIS), his body doesn’t produce as much or respond to testosterone like a normal male. This type of person could look like a man with a penis or could look like a woman with a vagina and externally look female. The XY athlete suffering from AIS with a male appearance would be at an extreme athletic disadvantage when competing against other men. On the other hand, an XY athlete with AIS that has a female external appearance would be at an advantage when competing with other women. Athletes with AIS and XY chromosomes that appear female produce and use more testosterone than the average female, thus giving them an athletic advantage (Foddy & Savulescu, 2010, p.1185). The second problem exists when females are born with a genetic condition known as congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH). CAH creates women with XX chromosomes, but produce abnormally high levels of testosterone. The high levels of testosterone can create an individual with a female appearance and organs that has increased testosterone or an individual with a male appearance and organs that has a lower testosterone level than the average male. The XX individual with CAH that has female characteristics would be at an athletic advantage over the average female. The XX individual with CAH that has a male appearance would have a severe disadvantage among average male athletes. Whereas testing for steroids results in a simple positive or negative outcome. Testing for gender can prove to be very...
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