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Canadian Mounts Fight To Have Medal Returned To Runner Who Failed Sex Test

Published: Friday, January 5, 2007 | 5:14 PM ET

Canadian Press: JIM MORRIS

(CP) - A Canadian transgender athlete who hopes to compete at the 2008 Summer Olympics has written IOC president Jacques Rogge a pair of letters criticizing how an Indian runner was stripped of her medal after failing a gender test during the Asian Games in December.

Kristen Worley, a cyclist and waterskier who has undergone sex-reassignment surgery, is leading a fight to have the medal returned to Santhi Soundarajan. Worley argues Soundarajan should never have been subjected to a gender test. She also says the incident is an example of the misconceptions surrounding the issue of gender in sport.

"The very reason they stopped sex testing before the Sydney Games was specifically because of the inconsistency, genetically, of a women's makeup," Worley said in a telephone interview. "Chromosomes do not give the actual sex or gender of a person's make up."

Not only should Soundarajan get her medal back, she should have her dignity returned, Worley said.

"This is not her problem, this is an IOC problem," she said.

"This is a problem at the highest level of sport and how we deal with ethical issues such as this in sport."

Soundarajan's story made headlines around the world.

The 25-year-old won silver after finishing second in the 800 meters at the Asian Games, held in Doha, Qatar. She was later stripped of her medal because test reports sent to the Indian Olympic Association said Soundarajan "does not possess the sexual characteristics of a woman." The test was administered by a medical commission set up by the Games' organizers.

Later stories in the India Times and The Hindu said the tests conducted on Soundarajan could have shown incomplete results but she would have to appeal to the International Olympic Committee medical commission if she wanted her medal back.

It's also been reported Soundarajan may have a condition known as Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS).

AIS is a condition that affects the development of the reproductive and genital organs. AIS individuals are genetically male but may have male or female genitalia.

The IOC no longer does genetic testing of athletes but the Olympic Council of Asia continues to conduct tests, according to the India Times.

The IAAF allows people with AIS to compete with females on the argument they do not have any advantage over others since there is practically no effect of testosterone. Eight athletes with AIS competed as women at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

In one of her letters to Rogge, Worley accused the IOC of creating a "very tragic situation."

"It should never have been handled in such a gross manner, amounting to public humiliation because of their ignorance of her condition," Worley wrote. "The Olympic movement has been dealing with intersex people since the 1930s. You'd think they would have got the hang of it by now."

An IOC official, contacted by e-mail, couldn't confirm if Rogge had received the letter.

Mianne Bagger, the first male-to-female golfer to play professionally, has also sent Rogge a letter of protest.

"Why now has this woman been publicly disgraced and humiliated by being labelled as 'a woman who has failed a sex test?" wrote Bagger. "Not only that, it is reported she is now required to appeal to the IOC Medical Commission to have this decision overturned.

"Santhi Soundarajan has done nothing wrong and she should not be in a position to require a 'sympathetic hearing' from anyone."

Bagger, a Dane, was barred from the professional golf circuit when she had sex-reassignment surgery in 1995, but finally won admission in late 2004.

Worley, who prefers the term transitioned to transgender, competes in both track and road cycling. She hopes to qualify for the cycling team for the Beijing Olympics.

In 2004 the IOC allowed athletes who have undergone sex reassignment to compete in elite level sports.

Some of the conditions imposed include: athletes having to wait for two years after surgery to compete; and legal recognition of their assigned sex.

Worley and some other transgender athletes argue these conditions make them stand out instead of fit in.

Last fall a Canadian mountain biker received a three-month suspension for wearing a T-shirt that mocked transgender cyclist Michelle Dumaresq.

Dumaresq had won her third Canadian downhill title at a competition in Whistler. During the awards ceremony the second-place finisher wore a white T-shirt that said "100 Per Cent Pure Woman Champ."

The Canadian Press, 2007

Changeling AspectsIn affiliation with Agender-(Aust) & Transbridge-(Townsville)

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