19 Year Old Dutee Chand Was India’s Fastest Sprinter. So Why Couldn’t She Compete?

Dutee Chand loves running - and she's good at it. But until this week, she hasn't been allowed to run against other women...

Sprinting through the sand, Dutee Chand leaves a trail of dust behind her as she crosses the finish line. India’s fastest teenage athlete, the 19 year old can run 100 metres in 11.8 seconds and 200 in 11.62. And if that doesn’t sound impressive enough, just wait until you see her collection of medals. (Clue: they’re mostly gold.)

But in 2014, after racking up win after win after win after win (including a silver medal at the London 2012 Olympics), the Athletics Federation of India decided something must be amiss. They subjected the then-18 year old to a hormone test, which found she had naturally high levels of testosterone.

Known in science-speak as ‘Hyperandrogenism’, Dutee’s hormone levels were significantly different from those of her competitors. And although she’s genetically, biologically and mentally female, the IAAF immediately banned her from competing against other women.

But now, following a traumatic year-long investigation into the condition, the Court of Arbitration for Sport has finally ruled she can resume her career.

‘Although athletics events are divided into discrete male and female categories, sex in humans is not simply binary,” the Court explained as they confirmed their verdict. ‘As it was put during the hearing: ‘Nature is not neat.’ There is no single determinant of sex.’

‘Nevertheless, since there are separate categories of male and female competition, it is necessary for the I.A.A.F. to formulate a basis for the division of athletes into male and female categories for the benefit of the broad class of female athletes. The basis chosen should be necessary, reasonable and proportionate to the legitimate objective being pursued.’

For Dutee, the victory is bittersweet. During her suspension, she’s been subjected to seemingly endless abuse online and off. She hasn’t been able to train to the same extent, and she’s scared for what the future will hold.

‘I know people started suspecting whether I was a woman or a man. All the honour I earned – I lost,’ she explained after the hearing. 

‘My friends used to start asking what’s wrong with me, and started to avoid me. In training centres, where girls used to share rooms, I was kept separately.’

‘I never thought I would lose [the case], because I always knew I was not at fault,’ she added. ‘I am very thankful to the judges that they have taken a close look at my case and given the decision in my favour. I have got justice. I am a normal girl.’

‘When I got to know the judgement – I can’t tell you how I felt. I am happy that no-one else will have to hear all the abuse that I had to hear.’

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