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October 10, 1986

Gender Testing in the Olympics

Author Affiliations

University of Tennessee Memphis

JAMA. 1986;256(14):1938. doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03380140108033

Since 1968 the International Olympics Committee (IOC) has required that individuals taking part in women's sporting events present evidence of "their femininity or female gender." Competitors must report to the "Gender Verification Office," where "determination of X and Y chromatin will be conducted on a smear of buccal mucosa membrane." "If the test is inconclusive, the competitor must undergo further tests as determined by the IOC Medical Commission." Because results are not made public, the efficacy of this policy is unknown.

"Gender" testing superficially strikes one as intuitively logical. That men might masquerade as women is not unthinkable in a luminous event like the Olympics. Moreover, genetic males raised as females may indeed have unfair athletic advantages as a result of increased muscle mass. An example is 5a-reductase deficiency, an autosomal recessive disorder in which 46,XY individuals are often raised as females only to virilize at puberty.

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