The release of Rashmi Rocket has once again sparked the conversation around gender and sex testing in women sports. And though it may seem that way, it isn’t something that just happens on screen, women in sports are constantly subjected to this practice. Here are 5 athletes whose careers were either destroyed or subjected to scrutiny due to this test:
1. Pratima Gaonkar
In 2001, three months after she won a silver medal in 4×400 relay in the Junior Asian Athletics Championship, Indian athlete and swimmer Pratima Gaonkar died of suicide after a disturbing call from her coach. She had been ordered a sex determination test, conducted at the National Institute of Sports, Patiala and had failed it, which soon became public knowledge and a cause for public commentary.
2. Santhi Soundarajan
She was the first Tamil woman to win a medal at the Asian Games, however after a failed sex test, Santhi, a woman born to Dalit parents, was stripped of her medals. The report sent to the Indian Olympic Association said, ‘Soundarajan does not possess the sexual characteristics of a woman.’ However, Santhi stated that she was made to sign papers in English, a language she does not understand, and her medals and prize money were taken away. The then 25-year-old disclosed that she has been told she has androgen insensitivity syndrome, but it did not change much. The athlete even tried to take her own life soon after, but was saved by her friend and granted a cash price by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Karunanidhi to continue training in Pudukkottai.
3. Caster Semenya
After winning a gold at the world championships in 2009, the South African middle-distance runner, Caster was subjected to a sex verification test. And even though the results were never published officially, unverified claims about Semenya having an intersex trait were made by the press. However, an agreement was reached and Caster went on to compete in women’s competitions and win many more awards.
4. Pinki Pramanik
An Indian track and field athlete, Pinki who brought home gold from the Asian Games 2006, was accused of rape in 2012 by a female friend. However, Pinki stated that she was being blackmailed by the woman. Medical tests to determine her gender were ordered, which were inconclusive. She made several statements saying that she was made to have testosterone injections by her coach to increase her performance. She also said that she was manhandled and kept in a men’s cell in jail, she also added that she did not consent to any testing, and was drugged and unconscious for the examination. According to several articles, medical tests were reported showed Pinki is a “male pseudo-hermaphrodite”. She was later cleared of rape charges by Calcutta High Court in 2014.
5. Dutee Chand
At the last minute, the professional sprinter was dropped from the 2014 Commonwealth Games contingent after the Athletic Federation of India stated that hyperandrogenism made her ineligible to compete as a female athlete. For this, the IAAF’s actions were widely criticised and Dutee filed an appeal, post which the IAAF policy on hyperandrogenism, or high natural levels of testosterone in women, was suspended in 2015 and she was cleared to race again.