Regulating Hyperandrogenism in Elite Female Athletes: The History and Current Politics of Sex-Control in Women’s Sport
Bavington, Lisa Dawn
My research investigates the stories told about the history and current policies on sex-control in women’s sport. Specifically, I am concerned with how these stories are represented, why this matters and with what effects for female athletes. Guided by feminist, poststructural and intersectional approaches to historiography, policy methodology and analysis, I examine particular entrenched narratives that perpetuate the supposed neutrality of regulating hyperandrogenism in women. This neutrality presumes the separation of policy from history, culture and politics on the one hand, and sex from other categories of social inequality and difference on the other. Drawing empirical data from interviews with policy-makers, archival records, policy documents and other primary sources, I ask two questions. Are the hyperandrogenism policies sex tests? Are the new policies better than before? Highlighting key findings from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) Award, there are four overlapping threads to this analysis: (a) to complicate and disrupt tropes of masquerade, progress and abandonment that work to locate sex-control firmly in the past and give the false impression that the hyperandrogenism regulations are new policies; (b) establish hyperandrogenism as a particular kind of ‘problem’ in the female category, making explicit how the ‘problem’ is thought by policy-makers and the conceptual logics that makes ‘this thinking’ possible; (c) demonstrate how, in the absence of evidence, policy-makers assemble legitimacy for a theory of advantage whereby unusually high endogenous testosterone levels in women are performance enhancing; and (d) make visible the politics of advantage, whereby prevailing notions of ‘fairness’ constitute some women as less deserving of protection from harm than others. Articulating historical representation, cultural logics and the politics of advantage in sport, the central claim I make is that the hyperandrogenism regulations are not just sex tests. The new policies reflect and enact old strategies to resolve a ‘problem’ of Western perception that emerges at the intersection of race, nation and other social locations; as one that is inseparable from systems and structures of oppression that secure and reproduce consensus for the biomedical control of young female athletes from the Global South, particularly from Africa. Rather than seeking alternatives, I challenge the search for better policies and demonstrate how a focus on the degree of competitive advantage that would exclude an athlete from women’s competition obscures legacies of colonialism, Western medical imperialism and deeply held political investments that benefit and protect a universal female subject. This research asks what is at stake in this storytelling and how the stories told about the history and current policies on sex-control in women’s sport could be transformed in ways that open up new possibilities for critical intervention.
Advisor: Burrows, Lisette; Lam, Carla
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: School of Physical Education, Sport & Exercise Sciences
Publisher: University of Otago
Research Type: Thesis