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Indian Sprinter Calls Out Unequal Treatment of Athletes

Indian Sprinter Calls Out Unequal Treatment of Athletes

Dutee Chand
Dutee Chand

Dutee Chand, who faced gender testing in order to compete, objects that athletes flew economy class to Rio while managers received business-class accommodations. 

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Indian sprinter Dutee Chand -- who faced obstacles to compete in the Olympics as a woman because of her high testosterone levels -- has revealed another case of her unequal treatment, as she and other athletes were sent economy class on a 36-hour flight to Rio de Janeiro, while team managers were placed in business class.

"I flew alone from Hyderabad [India] -- my coach could not come with me," Chand told Indian newspaper The Quint. "Managers and others are given business class tickets, but players are being given economy class. It was a 36-hour journey -- I could not get proper sleep or rest. If players are treated like this what kind of performance will we give in [the] Olympics?"

Chand, who will run in the 100-meter sprint, was subjected to gender verification testing before she was allowed to compete as a woman. The athlete, who comes from an impoverished family in rural India, had won a national championship and an Asian championship in Taipei, Taiwan, before she was called in for the testing by the Athletics Federation of India in June 2014.

"Chand had no idea that her extraordinary showing in Taipei and at a national championship earlier that month had prompted competitors and coaches to tell the federation that her physique seemed suspiciously masculine," The New York Times reports. "Her muscles were too pronounced, her stride was too impressive for someone who was only five feet tall."

It turned out Chand had higher levels of male hormones, mostly testosterone, than other women did. For that reason the International Association of Athletics Federations, which governs track and field, prevented the sprinter from competing for nearly two years. She reportedly was offered hormone therapy and "feminizing" surgery, but refused. Chand, who has said she never heard the words "testosterone" or "intersex" before her testing, appealed the association's ruling before an arbitration body and won in July 2015, clearing her to try out for the Olympics -- and she qualified, making her the first Indian woman to run the 100-meter sprint in the Olympics since 1980.

The Quint describes Chand as "always outspoken and fearless," qualities that likely stood her in good stead as she fought for the right to compete. This outspokenness extended to her comments about her travel arrangements. "Players should be taken care of," she told the publication, adding that she hopes future Olympians do not face such unequal treatment.

It wasn't the first time Chand had criticized the government for lack of support. Earlier this year, she described feeling like a "beggar" when needing a new pair of spike shoes, saying the government had failed to support her. "The government should provide assistance on its own, but I have to beg before it," she said in an interview with the Times of India. That story had a happy ending, with sponsor LimeRoad -- an e-commerce website -- sending the shoes, plus a new sports kit to wear during training and finals.

Chand is scheduled to compete on Friday in the 100-meter.

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