In 1898 Emile Zola wrote J’Accuse…! This was an open letter to the President of France in which he fought for human
dignity against anti-Semitic injustice.
This is my own J’Accuse…! to the IAAF, athletes, and
others who believe respect for human dignity is something selfishly reserved
for themselves, not also for other people who are slightly different and who do
not fit into stereotypical frames.
The European Union (and the South African
constitution) cherish core official values among which are human dignity,
freedom and equality.
But, of course in real life, we are not physically
identical. That is why sports achievement is a celebration of natural physical
inequality. Victors are physically superior and practice more. Responsible
losers do not complain. That is our world. Competition with respect for all.
However, now The International Association of Athletics
Federation (IAAF) has gone against the human dignity of sports victors. In
recent times South African athletics star Caster Semenya, a female with a high
natural testosterone level, took the world by storm. She is not a male but a hyper
androgenic female due to difference in sexual development (DSD). Competitors complained. The IAAF tested her
and decided at first she may participate. Competitors whined more. The
governing body listened again and then capitulated by banning Caster because of
her high natural testosterone levels even though her testosterone is not at a male
The IAAF as an
Performance-enhancing drugs are unnatural, risky and
increase the level of natural talent and that is why the IAAF bans athletes and
doctors who use drugs to increase testosterone levels.
However, now the IAAF dictates medically enforced performance-reduction
to artificially lower testosterone and natural talent.
The IAAF targets Caster Semenya personally as their directive
relates only to the events in which she participates. If Caster does not
undergo downer hormonal medical supervision to lower her internal testosterone
she is banned. So, if you dope to increase your hormones, you are banned. Yet,
if you do not dope to reduce your hormones you are banned.
Insensitive commentators abound. On the BBC TV’s HARDtalk in
May 2019, former British Olympic swimmer Sharron Davies acknowledged that
Semenya’s testosterone levels are natural but stated that, if Caster had been born in the UK she would have had medical
intervention and been brought up “as a little boy” but “she was born in Africa”.
Host Stephen Sackur just smiled at this slightly racist Eurocentric view. The
point they missed was that the word if
is the first word of making assumptions in theoretical conjecture and Caster
Semenya is not a theory. She is a real person, not a might-have-been theoretical
So, “normal” athletes are banned when they use drugs to
enhance their hormones but “theoretical” athletes who do not fit into the
old-fashioned frames are banned if they do not comply with enforced medical
reduction of their own natural hormones.
Even though Caster is not a man, the IAAF has invited her to
participate in male athletics as a man should she refuse the performance-lowering
testosterone decree. Will we soon see a man taking anti-testosterone medication
and who then wins the Olympic gold medal in the women’s 400 hundred metres?
manipulation of Alan Turing’s hormones
I am reminded of Alan Turing, the brilliant man who helped to decode the German Enigma codes in World War II and who laid down the mathematical principles of digital computing. He built his own Turing machine (the Bombe) and contributed to Colossus the world’s first real computer which was built in secret at Bletchley Park and with which Hitler’s coded messages were decoded even before Hitler could read them. Today’s computers are a result of Turing’s efforts.
People who comment negatively on social media against human dignity for others who physically differ from them should thank Turing who, like Caster, was a little different. He was homosexual and, in 1952, the British government dragged him to court for that. Instead of a jail sentence, he chose to be chemically castrated and accepted to take synthetic female hormones to lower his testosterone. As a result, Turing developed female breasts and, at the age of 41 when it all became too much, took his own life with a cyanide-laced apple.
I know Caster’s case is complex but I regard the IAAF’s treatment of her as being on the same scandalous old style level on which Turing was manipulated.
The IAAF has six core values but human dignity is not one of
them. I propose the IAAF gets off its high horse and makes human dignity their
seventh core value.
I reiterate that sports achievement is a
celebration of natural physical inequality with human dignity.
You do not find “a
level playing field” through discrimination and elimination
Anti-Semites from the days of Zola’s France discriminated against
Jews to eliminate them and improve their own non-Jewish “playing field”. Now in
the case of the IAAF, for “a level playing field”, there is institutionalised
discrimination and elimination of physically better people.
Just imagine the England Rugby Football Union or New Zealand
Rugby listening to the complaints of competitors that they are not on a level
playing field because a certain burly prop forward is too heavy and strong.
Imagine that player then being forced to take testosterone-lowering injections
coupled with a medically managed diet just so that Lucas Lightbody in the
opposing side will not be drilled into the turf. Idiotic.
What about brilliant baseball catchers and cricket fielders
with eyes that can follow a ball at the speed of light? No competitor will
successfully campaign for a governing body to dictate corrective surgery to
change their eyes to the cross-eyed, slow, snail level of guys with eyes like
I notice many people using the name of Michael Phelps in the
Caster saga. The swimmer Phelps won the
most Olympic medals in history. The wingspan of his arms is longer than his height.
He has a natural dominance. Caster also has a natural advantage. He is
different. Caster is as well.
In fact, we are all a little like Caster.
We are not always precisely
A comedian is now the President of Ukraine. A former child
actor, Scott Morrison, is now the Australian Prime Minister. The American sex
therapist Dr Ruth is only 1.4 metres in height but, in her youth, she was
trained as an Israeli sniper.
In his youth, Pope Francis used to work as a doorman and
bouncer at a Buenos Aires night club. (“Amigo, blessed are you but, with these
fists, I direct you to greater paths of happiness. Hit the road.”) Pope
Benedict XVI, formerly known as Joseph
Aloisius Ratzinger, used to be an anti-tank specialist in the German Wehrmacht
during World War II. If the IAAF were in charge of the Roman Catholic Church
these men would have surely have been banned and would never have seen the
inside of a Pope mobile.
Vagueness is part
of our lives. Barry Manilow had a huge hit with his song I Write the Songs
but he did not write it. A Beach Boy did.
Often things are
not what you think they are.
We often say that someone is as blind as a bat but, among
almost 1300 bat species, not a single one is blind. Of around 4800 frog species
only one produces the sound ribbit.
We live in a world of wrong assumptions and strange contradictions.
Yes we are the brainier things on earth but so what?
According to a study by the University of Arizona the barley genome is almost
twice the size of that of humans.
Sometimes human decision-making is at the level of a grain
of barley and as illogical as that of the IAAF.
In 1958 Mao Zedong believed sparrows ate China’s grain
harvests. He commanded his people to kill all sparrows. The people wiped out sparrows. Unfortunately
sparrows also ate insects and, without their natural enemy, locusts multiplied
like insensitive athletic bureaucrats. Locust plagues wiped out harvests on a
massive scale, China descended into famine, people started eating people and
millions died. A positive intention turned deadly negative.
However, negative political products can create positive
contradictions. Mustard gas maimed and killed many during World War I but, in
the 1940s, mustard gas became the basis for chemotherapy to fight cancer. A
deadly product became life-giving.
To give new life it
is sometimes correct to apologise for deadly actions
In 2009, on behalf of the British government, Prime Minister
Gordon Brown issued an unequivocal apology to Alan Turing for those inhumane
actions. In 2013 Queen Elizabeth II granted Turing a posthumous pardon for his
conviction. Turing’s human dignity was recognised.
Most modern governments have consciences. Would sports
bodies have that as well?
Where is sport going now with an Alan Turing type of
guideline on Caster Semenya? How can a ruling body ban medical hormonal
enhancement for some athletes but enforce artificial medical hormonal reduction
for other targeted athletes? What about sports other than athletics?
Should a sports body be allowed to play God with an individuals’
natural health? Who will be next on the gender police’s warrant of arrest list?
Lesbian tennis players? Strongly built heterosexual female field athletes? Tall
female basketball stars?
When will Caster Semenya’s human dignity be recognised and
all this nonsense end?
When will the IAAF add a seventh core value: Respect for Human Dignity?
Rhynie Greeff has a doctorate in commerce and a background in international business related to diplomacy, chemicals, minerals and telecommunications.
Read his previous Jet-Letter here.