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July 17, 1996

Female Olympians' Sex Tests Outmoded

JAMA. 1996;276(3):177-178. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03540030011004

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UNLIKE THEIR male counterparts, about 3500 women participating in female-only events in the Olympic Games in Atlanta, Ga, are required to undergo a diagnostic procedure that most medical experts have characterized as mis-guided and unnecessary: a sex test aimed at verifying that they are not males masquerading as females.

The aim of the tests is to ensure a level playing field for female athletes by preventing males—with their naturally androgen-enhanced muscular strength—from misrepresenting themselves and competing against women in female-only contests. But most medical authorities say that sex testing is far more likely to unfairly bar from competition women with genetic abnormalities that confer no such advantages.

Sex testing was eliminated in 1992 by the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF), the world's largest sports federation. Other groups on record against requiring gender verification for athletic competitions include the American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists