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September 27, 2000

Gender Verification in the Olympics

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Departments of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Molecular & Human Genetics, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Tex (Dr Simpson); International Amateur Athletic Foundation, Monaco (Dr Ljungqvist); Department of Clinical Veterinary Medicine, Cambridge University, Cambridge, England (Dr Ferguson-Smith); The Ohio State University, Columbus (Dr de la Chapelle); Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Ga (Dr Elsas); HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies, New York, NY (Dr Ehrhardt); Yale University, New Haven, Conn (Dr Genel); and King's College, London, England (Dr Ferris). Ms Carlson is an advisor on gender verification for the Women's Sports Foundation, East Meadow, NY.

JAMA. 2000;284(12):1568-1569. doi:10.1001/jama.284.12.1568

For nearly 15 years, we have advocated abolition of laboratory-based, on-site testing for gender verification in sports competition.1-11 The ostensible goal of gender verification is to ensure that female athletes do not unwittingly compete against men. Given that men presumably would have an unfair competitive advantage on the basis of speed or muscle mass, such a policy superficially seems endorsable on the grounds of fairness. In reality, gender verification tests are difficult, expensive, and potentially inaccurate.1,4,8,10 Furthermore, these tests fail to exclude all potential impostors (eg, some 46,XX males), are discriminatory against women with disorders of sexual development, and may have shattering consequences for athletes who "fail" a test.1,4,10

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