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IAAF To Offer Third Gender Option At 2016 Olympics
MONACO (CAP) - Track and field's international governing body has announced sweeping changes to the criteria for competing in the sport, adding a third gender for competitors beginning with the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The news comes in the wake of questions surrounding the gender of South African runner Caster Semenya.
"Much like we as a society have evolved to the point where some people's physical traits blur the lines between white and black, we must recognize that those same characteristics can apply to gender as well," said International Association of Athletics Federations President Lamine Diack.
"As such, we are pleased to offer androgynes the opportunity to compete at the highest levels alongside men and women," Diack added.
The recognition of a third gender marks the first major change in international sports since the failed Dopolympics in the early 1980's that provided chemically enhanced athletes the chance to compete against each other. Reaction throughout the track and field community has been mixed, with many questioning how the IAAF will conclusively determine gender.
"Well, instead of peeing in a cup, athletes will pee in two cups," said noted sports medicine expert Dr. Carlson Kodiak. "Or three if they've had a lot to drink. Plus it depends on the size of the cups. And whether or not they stand or sit to pee in the cup. Do they shake or wipe when they're done - you know, that sort of thing."
IAAF officials say gender tests will be conducted only when circumstances present "reasonable doubt" as to the true sex of the athlete, such as if they are frequently seen entering the wrong restroom. Other factors that could call for testing include an unexplained penchant for power tools, shaving of unexpected body parts, and naming ambiguity.
"No athlete named Julie is ever going to be required to undergo a gender test," said IAAF Vice President Sebastian Coe. "But if your name sounds like a motor oil, chances are we're going to want to get a look at your engine. So to speak."
For their part, androgynes, who have long been competing as East German females, welcome the opportunity to showcase their talents among their own kind. However, some pundits question the overall impact on sports should the third gender movement make its way from track and field into the mainstream.
"Adding a third gender would pretty much decimate men's gymnastics and figure skating - there wouldn't be anybody left," said sports psychologist Dr. Tanner Misener. "Although it might give American female divers a better chance seeing as the Chinese females all have bodies of 12-year-old boys."
At this time, the new IAAF ruling applies only to those who are naturally androgynous due to their body's chemical makeup and not transsexuals or those who consider themselves to be bigender.
An online petition by the North American Hermaphrodites Association also requesting inclusion in the third gender is under review by the IAAF, a decision on which is expected by the time of the NAHA's annual retreat next spring in the Poconos.
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