Monday, 1 March 2010

The Antedeluvian IOC

To give an idea of the medical conservatism - some would say eccentricity - in the IOC: from Time magazine
In 2005, Gian Franco Kasper, FIS president and a member of the IOC, said that he didn't think women should ski jump because the sport "seems not to be appropriate for ladies from a medical point of view."
One little problem with that. The evidence.
Lindsey Van holds the record — among both men and women — for the longest jump off of Whistler, B.C.'s normal ski jump, built for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. The 25-year-old skier trains six days a week, 11 months a year and has been jumping for the past 19 years. But when games kick off on Feb. 12, the 2009 women's ski jumping world champion will be nowhere in sight. That's because women aren't allowed to ski jump in the Olympics.
Women agitated to be included in the 2002 winter Olympics. And again in the 2006 ones. And yet again this year.

Here's the IOC's petulant response:
So will the IOC approve women's ski jump for 2014? "We'll have to wait and see," IOC member Dick Pound said in an interview for an documentary on women's ski jumping, Frozen Out of the Olympics. "If in the meantime you're making all kinds of allegations about the IOC and how it's discriminating on the basis of gender," he warned, "the IOC may say, 'Oh yeah, I remember them. They're the ones that embarrassed us and caused us a lot of trouble of trouble in Vancouver, maybe they should wait another four years or eight years.'"
How... adult. Not.

Given how embarrassing to the IOC the existence of Caster Semanya is, I don't expect the IOC to be particularly swift in acting on her case. And she better make no comments about her treatment.

Now you might wonder what these "medical issues" might be.

It's because they might damage their ovaries.

No, I'm not joking.

Not that there's any actual evidence of this, but the same belief was held about women running marathons. From Sexuality and Society:
The argument that running the marathon or ski jumping could damage women’s ovaries and lead to infertility is also deeply rooted in the historical oppression of women. The need to protect women’s health from harm was one of the reasons that women where initially barred from higher education in the 1800s. An article called “Early College Women: Determined to be Educated” cited one influential medical professional in particular: Some of the harshest were medical personal who felt that
“…a girl could study and learn, but she could not do all this and retain uninjured health, and a future secure from neuralgia, uterine disease, hysteria, and other derangements of the nervous system,”
according to Dr. Edward Clark in his widely respected Sex and Education published in 1873.
Which would seem to be where several OPC members are stuck - in the past.

As for Caster Semanya? From the New York Times:
Beginning in the mid-1930s, when African-American women began to excel in track and field, their success was seen through a mainstream prism of success in a “mannish” sport and reinforced disparaging stereotypes.
In the late 1940s, an Olympic official, Norman Cox, sarcastically proposed that in the case of black women, “The International Olympic Committee should create a special category of competition for them — the unfairly advantaged ‘hermaphrodites’ who regularly defeated ‘normal women,’ those less skilled ‘child bearing’ types with ‘largish breasts, wide hips and knocked knees.’ ”
Note that he was being sarcastic, at the antedeluvian attitudes of his colleagues.

It seems little has changed. Because while Lindsey Vonn outclassed everyone in her races, despite nursing an injured ankle, and despite the fact that she uses male-pattern skis.... she looks too pretty to be given any test to see if she's gentically advantaged by an Intersex condition. It's all about appearances, you see.

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