Tuesday, 11 July 2017 20:49

Advantage IAAF or CAS?

The governing body for global athletics, the IAAF, heads to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland at the end of the month, armed with evidence it hopes will be enough to overturn a CAS decision of 2015, and to reinstate its so-called “hyperandrogenism policy”.

The policy regulates the testosterone levels of female athletes with intersex conditions. The evidence, some of which was published in a prestigious sports science journal last week, showed that among 2 127 athletes in two athletics world championships women with higher testosterone levels performed between 1.8% and 4.5% better than women with lower testosterone levels in selected events.

This is, by way of background, the evidence that the IAAF was asked to find in July 2015, when CAS ruled in favour of an Indian sprinter, Dutee Chand, who was challenging the hyperandrogenism regulations.

Hyperandrogenism regulations were nonexistent before 2009, but were created after the disastrous handling of the Caster Semenya case in Berlin that year.

They required that intersex athletes like Chand (and, allegedly, Semenya, though she has not confirmed this), who usually have male chromosomes, internal testes and high levels of the male hormone testosterone, take hormone-suppressing medication.

This to reduce their testosterone levels below a cut-off level that had been determined and verified by research on female athletes.

The policy meant that from 2010 to 2015, all intersex athletes — nine were identified by the research in 2011 and 2013 — were taking hormones to keep their testosterone levels below a cut-off of 10 nmol/L. Then Chand won her CAS case.

From July 2015, testosterone suppression was no longer required. However, that was merely the first instalment. CAS did not dismiss the policy outright, but made its decision based on: (a) a lack of evidence for the benefit of testosterone in women; and (b) the discriminatory nature of applying such a policy to one group only, in the absence of evidence.

They gave the IAAF two years to gather that evidence, and here we are, for part two. If the IAAF is successful and CAS reinstates the hyperandrogenism policy, then a group of at least nine women identified in the course of the IAAF research — Semenya being one of them, allegedly — will have to undertake hormone therapy again. I’ve no doubt they will slow down substantially.

The big question for now, though is: Will the IAAF’s evidence be enough? On the face of it, I doubt it.

Unless the IAAF has more than this published study, I don’t think it will clear the bar that CAS set with its verdict.

CAS was very clear in saying that the advantage of intersex athletes needed to be large, outranking other genetic advantages. It referred many times in its decision to the typical 10% advantage that men enjoy over women, which reveals where its thinking is.

I don’t think that a 1.8% to 4.5% advantage in some events only will clear that bar and satisfy CAS’s thinking, though I may be wrong. A lot depends on how well both sides can argue the issue of what constitutes an advantage that, to borrow CAS’s words, “outranks other genetic advantages”.

I think CAS was wrong to get trapped into this “ranking’’- o - advantage thinking. People are quick to point out that all successful athletes have genetic advantages over their rivals — LeBron James is tall, Usain Bolt has fast-twitch muscles, Michael Phelps had a body perfect for swimming.

However, in my opinion, this misses a key point — we don’t attempt to regulate these genetic advantages by having categories for height in basketball, or muscle fibre type in running. We do, however, regulate the single-largest genetic advantage for performance — sex. It’s why separate categories exist for men and women.

Defending the integrity of women’s sport requires that this separation be protected. But CAS created a philosophical question and dilemma that science can’t answer to defend it.

Whatever decision is made, and I expect CAS to repeat its previous one, won’t put an end to this controversial issue — it has some far-reaching implications, most notably for transgender athletes.

However, it is the next instalment in the now longrunning intersex issue, and all eyes will be on Lausanne at the end of the month.


IOC to cut deal with Paris and Los Angeles for 2024, 2028 Olympics

LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- If they can agree who goes first, Paris and Los Angeles will be awarded the 2024 and 2028 Olympics.

International Olympic Committee members voted unanimously to seek a consensus three-way deal between the two bid cities and the IOC executive board. Talks will open with Paris widely seen as the favourite for 2024.

If a deal falls through, only the 2024 hosting rights will be voted on when the IOC next meets, on Sept. 13 in Lima, Peru.

However, an agreement seemed assured by the reaction of the two mayors. Eric Garcetti of LA and Anne Hidalgo of Paris emerged on stage holding hands to welcome the decision.

A deal is also likely because a head-to-head fight for 2024 would create a loser that is unlikely to return four years later for a new 2028 bid contest.

"Both of us will find it more and more difficult to convince cities -- whether it's Paris, Los Angeles or other American cities -- to really go into this process if one of us gets turned down," Garcetti had said earlier Tuesday.

The mayors were united on stage by IOC President Thomas Bach, who raised an arm of each in a shared gesture of triumph.

A deal to make both cities winners would fulfil a strategy that Bach set in motion last December to help safeguard a stable future for the signature Olympic event.

"With Los Angeles and Paris, there are two fantastic cities from countries with a profound Olympic history," Bach said.

The IOC approved the expected double award after hearing both cities present their 2024 hosting plans at a conference centre in the Olympics' capital city, Lausanne.

Both cities used 45 minutes of videos and speeches, including one with French President Emmanuel Macron promoting the Paris cause, in a closed-door session with IOC members to explain how they would host the 2024 Olympics.

At separate news conferences, the mayors said they could work toward a deal.

"We look forward to working together, maybe not in competition but collaboration with Paris," LA's Garcetti said after his city's bid officials opened the campaign event.

Garcetti and Hidalgo have long touted their good relations on other issues such as climate change.

"We are all at the disposition and by the side of the IOC which was right to ask itself this question," Hidalgo said at the Paris news conference, citing her friendship with Garcetti as potentially a "key element."

The dual award can give the IOC a decade of stability with two world-class cities touting financially secure bids. LA plans to use only existing venues with zero risk of white elephants. This follows years of overspending by Olympic hosts and a series of political defeats that have sunk the campaigns of potential candidates.

It also avoids inflicting a third recent defeat on Paris -- which lost with bids for the 2008 and 2012 Olympics -- and the United States. New York and Chicago both lost heavily for 2012 and 2016, respectively.

Those losses deepened a rift between the U.S. Olympic Committee and the Swiss-based IOC that LA 2024 and a new team of American officials have worked hard to heal.

Paris also failed with a 1992 bid and pinned its hopes on hosting in 2024, exactly 100 years after its previous Summer Games.

"We lost three times, we don't want to lose a fourth one," Macron said at the news conference. "I'm here to convey the message that there's a strong unity to back this candidacy."

Minutes after Macron spoke, U.S. President Donald Trump wrote on Twitter: "Working hard to get the Olympics for the United States (L.A.). Stay tuned!"

Garcetti said the Olympic movement "can't afford to lose the United States."

The IOC's most valuable TV rights deal is with NBC and several of its top-tier sponsors are American.

Still, a 2028 Olympics in Southern California could be the first American-hosted games since 1996 in Atlanta.

Bach has said the idea of a double award was presented to him at a lunch last year by friends whom he declined to identify in a recent interview with French sports daily L'Equipe.

The LA bid team declined to comment Tuesday whether the suggestion came from its supporters, as some believe.

"He (Bach) has good friends who gave him good advice," LA bid chairman Casey Wasserman said.