If the reports are correct, Ms Semanya has PAIS-6. Partial Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome grade 6, where grade 7 is Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (CAIS).For the depths of pig-ignorance and blind malice shown by some, go no further than the comments at the NY Daily News.
What this means is that she's almost completely immune to testosterone and other androgens. "Almost", but not quite completely. If she'd had CAIS, she'd be ultra-feminine, more so than standard factory model women. It's an open secret that most of the supermodels who don't have children have CAIS, as did Miss Teen USA 1991.
From the Internation Amateur Atletics Association rules on the subject :
---(The crux of the matter is that the athlete should not be enjoying the benefits of natural testosterone predominance normally seen in a male)
6. Conditions that should be allowed:- Androgen insensitivity syndrome (Complete or almost complete - previously called testicular feminization);- Gonadal dysgenesis (gonads should be removed surgically to avoid malignancy);- Turner’s syndrome.
(b) Those conditions that may accord some advantages but nevertheless acceptable:- Congenital adrenal hyperplasia;- Androgen producing tumors;- Anovulatory androgen excess (polycystic ovary syndrome).
Unlike other women, she cannot get the full performance benefits of testosterone, since she's almost immune to the stuff. Having three times the female average could well be less effective when it comes to building muscle mass than a normal amount in an average women. Many female athletes have high natural levels of testosterone anyway - though still a third or less of an average male, and a tenth of a male athlete.
As regards the "dangerous condition" of internal testes, the danger isn't exactly immediate. There's a tenfold normal risk of cancer, and it would be wise to have 6-monthly checks, and gonadectomy if any pre-cancerous lesions are found, but that's it. At worst, 1 in 50, and the estrogen, the female sex hormone also produced by the testes, is useful for preventing oteopyrosis and other conditions, so it's swings and roundabouts. The real reason for gonadectomy is to stop other people from being upset about the idea of a woman with testes in her body.
I've stated the IAAA's policy - but that policy is not always followed. The Indian athlete Santhi Soundarajan had CAIS, but was stripped of her medals by Indian authorities, not because she had an advantage, but purely for being Intersexed, a sub-human. She attempted suicide shortly thereafter, as Ms Semanya may do.
She's an 18 year old girl from a backwoods African rural village who has given her all to become a world-class athlete. Now she's had the double blow of being told she'll never be able to have children, and having her life and ambitions shattered by a global surge of ignorant bigotry.
Some of which is apparent in these comments.
Oh yes, I'm Intersexed too. I'm also 51, a middle-aged woman old enough to be a grandma, and used to this kind of thing. She's only a teenage girl. Some here forget that.
I've been contacted by a TV producer (in another context) about a programme on Intersexed people. She's having difficulty finding people willing to place themselves in the spotlight. Have a look at the many articles and comments all around the world, and you can see why.
At the risk of being tediously repetitive, I've had it easier than most, and I know it. It's only because of that that I don't worry about keeping a low profile. I live in a relatively well-educated and tolerant society, and although I'm not proud of my unusual medical situation, I'm not ashamed of it either. It's the way I was born, as some are born left-handed or colour-blind.
Some people have difficulty with that. Not the medical situation, but the fact that I neither advertise nor keep secret. That I refuse to feel ashamed, just because in their view, I should do. They don't know how to handle that. Someone who's honest, unashamed, but not, it has to be said, unafraid.
But if I don't speak out, who will? To those who have been given much, much is to be expected. I'm not even sure that I'm doing my part, I feel I could and should do more. Life - bringing up my son, and my PhD - gets in the way though, and there's only so many hours in the day.
More on AIS at the excellent site Second Type Woman.