WMA asks doctors not to help lower female athletes’ testosterone levels

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The World Medical Association (WMA) has asked doctors not to implement the IAAF’s new eligibility regulations for classifying female athletes. Sport24 reports that this follows the decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to dismiss Caster Semenya’s appeal against rules designed to decrease naturally high testosterone levels in some female runners.

The decision by the CAS means that women with elevated testosterone will have to take suppressive treatment if they wish to compete against women in certain events.

The report says in a 2-1 decision, CAS judges dismissed Semenya’s appeal against the measures imposed by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) that compel “hyperandrogenic” athletes – or those with “differences of sexual development” (DSD) – to artificially lower their testosterone levels.

The judges said that although the rules are “discriminatory… such discrimination is a necessary, reasonable and proportionate means of achieving the IAAF’s aim of preserving the integrity of female athletics in the Restricted Events.” But, the report says, the WMA, a body that represents 112 National Medical Associations across the globe, says doctors should not dispense medication to female athletes with high testosterone levels at the moment saying the regulations are “based on weak evidence from a single study.”

WMA president Dr Leonid Edelman said: “We have strong reservations about the ethical validity of these regulations. They are based on weak evidence from a single study, which is currently being widely debated by the scientific community. They are also contrary to a number of key WMA ethical statements and declarations, and as such we are calling for their immediate withdrawal.”

The report said the body had originally made their call on 29 April, two days before the CAS verdict.

 

 

WMA chair Frank Ulrich Montgomery advised doctors to play no part in enforcing the rules during an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “We do think it is extremely serious if international sports regulations demand physicians to prescribe medication — hormonally active medication — for athletes in order to reduce normal conditions in their body,” he is quoted in a report in The Times as saying.

Montgomery said that for women with DSD “it is just normal to be androgenic and there is nothing pathological about the situation of this athlete”. “No physician can be forced to administer these drugs, and we definitely urge our colleagues to refrain from giving hormonally active medication to athletes simply because some regulations demand it,” he added.

“If physicians do apply these drugs they do break ethical codes. The basic ethical code of all medical practice is never do harm, and it is doing harm to a perfectly normal body with just a rather high level of testosterone by administering drugs to use this in order to make them eligible for women’s sport under these regulations.”

The report says Semenya is mulling an appeal. Montgomery said the argument that Semenya had an unfair advantage over others didn’t make sense, using the height of some basketball players to make his point. “The next issue would be that we demand basketball players who are taller than 2.25 metres should reduce their height surgically to something else because, of course, they do have an advantage over other basketball players that are somewhat smaller,” he said.

“So where is the limit to this? And therefore, we say medicine shouldn’t interfere with non-pathological situations simply to enhance sports activities.”

Sport24 report
WMA statement
Full report in The Times


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