Friday, July 7, 2017

V 7 N. 43 The Women's 800 Controversy



In the previous post on this blog, I spoke briefly about the issues of hyperandrogenous female competitors in the 800 meters and stated that not many people are talking about it. I thought I was taking some risk in this era of political correctness to even broach the subject, but I was wrong.   I must eat those words, as Sonia O'Sullivan published a piece the same day in The Irish Times July 6, 2017,  saying pretty much what I said.

Below are my comments, followed by the link to Sonia's thoughts.

Ok, here's one no one seems to want to address directly.  The women of (hyper) androgenous genetic make up have an unfair advantage.  It's nothing new, if you look back to Stella Walsh, the 1932 Olympic 100 meters champion from Poland.  It's not those ladies' fault that they inherited a genetic imbalance, but Caster Semenya, Francine Niyonsaba, and Margaret Wambui look like, are built like, and run like dudes.  The question is how to level the playing field.  They have been tested and Semenya has been found to have abnormally high testosterone levels, and there is scientific data indicating that this higher level will produce a significant advantage of from 1-4% enhanced performance.  My question is why with a testosterone advantage are they still not running faster than a mediocre high school male?  Are they sandbagging?  Are they just running enough to win and not draw too much attention to themselves?  I know that having this problem and living in Africa is an enormous social and psychological burden to bear for these ladies.  The IAAF is again considering requiring women to undergo a hormone reduction treatment to bring down their testosterone levels to within a range considered normal for women.  Question is how long will it take for the reduction to have an effect?  The moral question is whether this a violation of human rights.  It hints of Nazism and eurgenics.


Sonia O'Sullivan Speaks Out on Women's 800

I remember seeing the post race interviews with some of the women who finished outside the medals at Rio and you could just see on their faces what they were thinking, but they were kind enough not to speak their feelings.

O'Sullivan brings up the controversy that came from John McInroe's claims about Serena Williams and how she would rank amongst male tennis players, 700th in his words.  However O'Sullivan  in her article admits that these women's world best 800 runners would not be in the top 8000 male runners at that distance.  Track is easily quantifiable, whereas tennis is not.  So McInroe will have  to defend his statements with much less quantifiable data.

It's clear that the longer the race is, the closer that men's and women's  world records approach each other, because women's natural endurance capacities approach that of men.  But the 800 is a race that requires a lot of strength as well as some endurance, thus the men and women racing on the track at the same time would be considered unfair.    Sonia also suggested as I did that the 800 women might be running within their abilities to reduce the amount of attention they draw to themselves.   If the fibreglass pole had not been invented, and steel poles were still the mode of transport over the bar, then women would be at a great disadvantage in that event.  As it is now, a good woman can beat a lot of males in the vault.  Technique and courage are as important as strength.

So where will this lead?  What can be considered fair?  Reduce women's natural hormone levels, or let some women boost theirs to within certain limits?   Should hyperandrogenous women be put into a diffeerent category and race amongst themselves?  Or should we just say,  two sexes , male and female, thus only two races will be run.   Amongst men, some are more endowed  with strong physical traits than others, and they tend to do better in certain athletic events.  There's no way Herb Elliot could have beaten Armin Hary at 100 meters, but just let Armin try to race Herb at 1500.  What if I grow up wanting to play center like Wilt Chamberlain, but I'm only 5'10" tall?  I'm SOL.

Science is a discipline of measurement.  What is done with those measurements is what we call applied science or even social engineering.   We know through measurement what causes nuclear fission.  Do we make a bomb or an electrical generator?  We have the information that tells us why some people are different from others, what do we do with that information, and how will that reflect on us as community?

My recommendation is that there be only one race for women, no homonal regulation.  This is what nature dealt.
George

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