Two days before India's team left for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland, up-and-coming sprinter Duttee Chand received the news that she wouldn't be joining her teammates. The reason? She "failed" a "gender test" due to high androgen levels, reports India.com.
Scheduled to compete in the 200-meter this week, the Sports Authority of India demanded Chand take the controversial test last-minute. The government agency, like many other countries worldwide, only tests female athletes suspected of naturally producing "excess" testosterone.
In an ordeal that recalls the 2008 case of South African track star Caster Semenya — whose World Championship 800-meter gold medal was nearly revoked after the validity of her gender was contested — the Indian government has begun debating the boundaries of gender.
"What is the definition of the female athlete?" parliament member Bharaturhai Mahtab asked, according to India.com. "Why [is a] sex test done on females only? This is discrimination."
The 18-year-old Odisha-based athlete first gained notoriety last year when she broke India's 100-meter record, and has since been a consistent finalist in youth competitions throughout Asia. She and her older sister, also a sprinter, have been an inspiration to many, having risen to prominence from an impoverished upbringing.
Although the Sports Authority of India insists the test does not determine gender, lack of awareness about intersex conditions has led some to conclude that Chand is male. But "Ms. Chand grew up as girl and remains a woman," Trans Media Watch clarifies. "There is no possibility that she could 'really' be a man and suggestions along these lines are likely to cause acute distress."
"Ms. Chand has just lost one of the most exciting opportunities in her career," Trans Media Watch continues. "She is facing an uncertain future."
Currently, Chand is not allowed to compete unless she exhibits lower androgen levels. According to Live Mint, she is still waiting to learn if the Sports Authority of India will strip her of previous medals and records.