I have transcribed an interview of Stéphane Bermon who is Director of the IAAF Health and Science Department and a chief architect of the IAAF DSD regulations. He is also the lead author of work supporting the regulations that we have critiqued. The interview was conducted just over one year ago, on the release of the IAAF DSD Regulations, with Tracey Holmes of ABC Australia The Ticket and it is archived here. The transcript below is cleaned up a bit from the spoken English, but otherwise I think accurate.
Dr. Bermon says some remarkable things, viewed now with hindsight, and I am posting here for my own future use. They may be useful to others as well.
On the scientific basis of the regulations:
“It is more appropriate from a scientific point of view to consider only events where we have scientific evidence proving that having a high level of testosterone gives a very high advantage over other female athletes with a lower level of testosterone. . . We narrowed the scope of the regulations [from 2011] because we wanted to be perceived as responsible people making ruling on science-based fact.”
On how they decided to categorize the 400m to one mile as restricted events under the regulations:
“Let me explain to you how we finally decided which will be the so-called restricted events. We had two different groups of scientific evidence. The first one is a study that was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine that was published in 2017 where we were able to correlate the performance results achieved by the athletes in the 2011 and 2013 World Championships with their testosterone levels. In this article, the one you are mentioning, we discovered that in some events, like the 400m, 400mH, 800m, hammer throw, pole vault we have the quite high significant difference between the higher level of testosterone and the lower level of testosterone when it comes to performance. On the other hand, the other group of scientific evidence we have is that, and you probably don’t know about that, but we are dealing with the issue of intersex athletes for more than 10 maybe 15 years at the IAAF, and many athletes, not 3, 4, 5, I would say 20, 25, 30 athletes and we examined in which events they were competing and surprisingly many of them, approximately 80% of them were competing in long sprints and middle distance running and we had some rare cases, we has one case or two in pole vault, one in shot put, one in jumping events, but that was quite anecdotal. So again, we took a quite conservative approach saying “Well, if what we observe on the field is not really consistent with what the study says, let’s be conservative and decide to target only those events where we have scientific evidence coming from the field and from our studies.”
On why this is such an issue today:
“It has been a concern for many years. It’s just that the media is concerned now. But you have intersex athletes who ran in important races and got some medals without the public knowing they are intersex, so it’s not new stuff. I think that’s important that you understand about that.”
On why IAAF is focused on testosterone:
“It is only the testosterone factor because we are aware that there are other factors, biological or genetic parameters, which have some influence on performance, both in male and female, but we considered for the female athlete that testosterone is a different one. It’s one that give a very significant advantage when compared to the other factors and that’s by the way the reason why you have categorization between male and female competition in most of the sports including athletics.”
On whether the athletes covered by the events are really female:
“Well, let me be very clear as a governing body, as a federation, we have no right and that’s not our business, I would say it like this, to challenge the gender of an athlete, we don’t really care if they are legally accepted as a male or female or socially accepted. We only care about having some kind of fair play or level playing field in athletics. But biologically speaking, if you talk about biology, some intersex athletes, most of them, they have a Y chromosome, their karyotype is 46 XY, they have testes and are usually socially accepted as female and most of the time legally as female. So you see it is quite difficult because you have different ways to consider people, is it biologic, is it genetic, is it social, is it legal? And different types of sex.”
“We say you have an unfair advantage over other women and you are breaking the sex category between male and female and this is not acceptable from the sports perspective and only from the sports perspective do we care about that.”
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