Letter to the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Council

Katrina Karkazis
Aug 12, 2016 · 7 min read

Re: Disqualification of Dutee Chand and the hyperandrogenism policy

Date: December 3, 2014

[Note: This letter was written and the signatures gathered in 2014. It was intended to be sent to the IAAF and released publicly. Instead, it was attached to Madeleine Pape’s testimony and is referenced in paragraph 355 of the CAS award. It is now being made public for the first time.]

We, the undersigned, including Olympians, elite athletes, human rights advocates, intersex representatives, women’s sports foundation executives, medical geneticists, clinical endocrinologists, bioethicists, sports medicine experts, and social scientists dedicated to fairness and social justice, strongly oppose the disqualification of Indian sprinter Dutee Chand. Ms. Chand was disqualified from international and national track and field competition under the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) hyperandrogenism policy for elite female athletes. She was barred from competing in the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, and received official notice of her disqualification on August 29, 2014.

We oppose Ms. Chand’s disqualification and the hyperandrogenism policy on which it was based. We reject the policy’s rationale, which presumes that women with naturally high testosterone have an unfair advantage over women with lower natural levels. They do not. Several of the officials who formulated the policy acknowledge that women with hyperandrogenism “have no more competitive advantage than other elite athletes with favourable genetic characteristics.”[i] We also reject the claim that higher testosterone levels directly result in improved performance. Again, policy makers have acknowledged “there is no clear scientific evidence proving that a high level of [testosterone] is a significant determinant of performance in female sports.”[ii] The policy requires women with no prior health complaint to undergo invasive medical and surgical interventions to lower their testosterone levels within permissible limits in order to continue their careers in sport. These are serious interventions that are medically unnecessary and harmful in the near and long term.[iii] These interventions may compromise bone and muscle strength and cause chronic weakness, depression, sleep disturbance, poor libido, diabetes, and fatigue. Surgery, which is irreversible, necessitates lifetime hormone replacement and may also make women sterile. The policy and its stated rationale are unscientific, unethical, and unfair and can lead to long-term physical, psychological and social harm for women athletes.

The policy also heightens the unfair scrutiny that women athletes already experience and exacerbates discrimination of women in sport who are perceived as failing to conform to gender norms. Similar regulations put in place by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that require national sport organizations to “actively investigate any perceived deviation in sex characteristics”[iv] are a chilling example of this scrutiny. In addition, the policy places a disproportionate burden on women from developing countries and women who earn low incomes. In such contexts, sport represents a particularly important path to economic stability and to specific resources such as education and jobs. These women are likely to face enormous pressure to submit to these interventions in order to continue their athletic careers. The IAAF policy fundamentally undermines the spirit of sport. The Olympic Movement, of which the IAAF is a member, welcomes and celebrates human diversity. The Olympic Charter states:

The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practising sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play, (Principle 4)

Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement. (Principle 6)

According to these principles, all female athletes should be allowed to participate in sport, regardless of their inherent physical traits or gender presentation. Scientists, sports officials, and sports advocates have suggested that the core issue is not whether women with high testosterone actually do have unfair advantage, but whether other women athletes believe that they have such advantages.[v] In effect, they maintain that the rule is legitimate if it reflects the will of “the community of those who play and love that sport,”[vi] even if that will is based on prejudice, scientific inaccuracies, and false information. We strongly reject this assertion. It is not the role of sports governing bodies to endorse prejudice. Rather, they should use their considerable resources and authority to counter it by fighting misinformation instead of inviting more bias. We therefore call on the IAAF, the IOC, and other international and national sports organizations to take this opportunity to educate athletes about natural biological diversity of sex-related characteristics, specifically placing such diversity in broader context of the range of factors that contribute to athleticism.

We urge the IAAF to reinstate Dutee Chand with immediate effect and to cease enforcement of the hyperandrogenism policy. We further urge the IAAF to engage the IOC and other international and national sports federations in a coordinated process to abolish eligibility restrictions on women with naturally occurring hyperandrogenism.


*Institutional affiliation listed for identification purposes only (as of 2014)

Katrina Karkazis, PhD, MPH Center for Biomedical Ethics Stanford University (USA)

Payoshni Mitra, PhD Sports Authority of India appointed Advisor to Dutee Chand Researcher, Gender Issues in Sport (India)

Bruce Kidd, PhD Olympian, Athletics (Canada) Professor of Kinesiology and Physical Education University of Toronto

Malcolm A Ferguson-Smith, MBChB, FRCPath, FRCP, FMedSci, FRSE, FRS Member, IAAF working group on gender verification Professor Emeritus, Department of Pathology, University of Cambridge

Anke A. Ehrhardt, PhD Member, IAAF working group on gender verification Professor of Medical Psychology Department of Psychiatry, College of Physicians & Surgeons Division of Gender, Sexuality, and Health Columbia University (USA)

Don H. Catlin, MD Member IOC Medical Commission, 1985–2014 Professor Emeritus, Department of Medical & Molecular Pharmacology University of California, Los Angeles (USA)

Richard Lapchick, PhD Chair of DeVos Sport Business Management Program Director, Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport Director, National Consortium for Academics and Sports University of Central Florida (USA)

Carole A. Oglesby, PhD International Policy and Program Advisor Women’s Sports Foundation (USA)

Pinki Pramanik Athletics (India) Winner of 6 international medals

Santhi Soundarajan Athletics (India) Winner of 11 international medals

Nikki Dryden Olympian, Swimming (Canada) Human Rights Lawyer

Rennae Stubbs Olympian, Tennis (Australia)

Madeleine Pape Olympian, Athletics (Australia) Graduate student, University of Wisconsin-Madison (USA)

Peter N.Sperryn, FRCP,FACSM Former Hon. Medical Adviser, and Team Doctor, British Editor, British Journal of Sports Medicine Professor, Sports Medicine, Brunel University, London President, Medical Commission, International Federation of Sports Medicine (F.I.M.S.) (UK)

Brian Macpherson CEO, Commonwealth Games Canada (Canada)

Nancy Hogshead-Makar, JD Olympian, Swimming (USA) CEO, Champion Women (USA)

Stuart Kim, PhD Professor of Developmental Biology and Genetics Stanford University Medical Center (USA)

Dr. Tirthankar Chaudhury, MBBS, MD, MRCP (UK), FRCP (Edin)(London) President, Kolkata Diabetes and Endocrine Forum Apollo Gleneagles Hospitals, Kolkata (India)

Arthur L. Caplan PhD Drs. William F and Virginia Connolly Mitty Chair Director, Division of Medical Ethics, Langone Medical Center New York University (USA)

L. Dawn Bavington, PhD Candidate University of Otago (New Zealand)

Clare Barrell Chair, Commonwealth Youth Sport for Development & Peace (CYSDP) (UK)

Shohini Ghosh, PhD Professor, Mass Communication Research Centre Jamia Millia Islamia, (Central University) (India)

Helen Carroll Director, Sports Project National Center for Lesbian Rights (USA)

Karen Hultzer Paralympian, Archery (South Africa)

Geetanjali Misra Co-Founder and Executive Director, CREA (India)

Sanjay Kalra, MD Executive Editor, Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism (India)

Timothy Dutton QC Chairman of the Bar Council 2008 Chairman of the Association of Regulatory and Disciplinary Lawyers (UK)

Timothy Noakes, PhD Sports Science Institute of South Africa Professor, University of Cape Town (South Africa)

Anne-Fausto Sterling, PhD Nancy Duke Lewis Professor Emerita, Brown University (USA)

Marion Lay President, Think Sport Ltd Olympian, Swimming (Canada) Inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame Recipient, IOC Trophy for the Americas for Women and Sport Former Executive Member, Canadian Olympic Committee Founding Member, WomenSport International (Canada)

Claire Harvey Paralympian, Sitting Volleyball (UK)

Rebecca Jordan-Young, PhD Tow Associate Professor and Chair, Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Barnard College, Columbia University (USA)

Selina Khoo Phaik Lin, PhD Sports Department, University of Malaya (Malaysia) David McArdle LLB, PhD School of Law Stirling University (Scotland)

Anton Raimondo Paralympian, Sitting Volleyball (South Africa) Founder, ParaVolley (South Africa)

Grant Jarvie, PhD Professor of Sport, Institute of Sport, Physical Education and Health University of Edinburgh (Scotland)

Stiliani “Ani” Chroni, Ph.D., CC-AASP WomenSport International Secretary Professor of Sport Psychology Dept. of Sports & Physical Education, Hedmark University College (Norway)

Georgiann Davis, PhD President, AISDSD Support Group Assistant Professor, University of Nevada, Las Vegas (USA)

Morgan Carpenter President, Organisation Intersex International Australia Limited (Australia)

Les Johnson Vice President for External Affairs, Federation of Gay Games (USA)

Hida Viloria Intersex representative, IOC meeting of experts on women with hyperandrogenism in competitive sport, 2010 Director, Organisation Intersex International (USA)

Kimberly Zeiselman, JD Executive Director, Advocates for Informed Choice (USA)

Lou Englefield Director, Pride Sports (UK)

Guylaine Demers, PhD Professeure titulaire Directrice Baccalauréat en Intervention sportive Université Laval (Canada)

Maxx Ginane Documentary Director and Producer, Too Fast to be a Woman (Australia)

Patricia Vertinsky, PhD Distinguished University Scholar and Professor of Human Kinetics University of British Columbia, Vancouver (Canada)

Budd L Hall, PhD Co-Chair, UNESCO Chair in Community-Based Research and Social Responsibility in Higher Education Professor of Community Development University of Victoria (Canada)

Pamela A. Ratner, PhD, FCAHS Senior Associate Dean, Administration & Innovation Faculty of Education University of British Columbia (Canada)

Pat Griffin Professor Emerita, University of Massachusetts (USA)

Jasmine Northcott Executive Director / Directrice générale AthletesCAN (Canada)

Sue Griffin Executive Director, Tennis BC (Canada)

Kelly D. Murumets President & CEO Tennis Canada (Canada)

Joanne Stygall Lotz Executive Director ProMOTION Plus (Canada)

Lydia Alpizar Association for Women’s Rights in Development (Brazil)

Carol D. Rodgers, PhD Dean, College of Kinesiology University of Saskatchewan (Canada)


[i] Genel M, Ljungqvist A, Simpson JL, de la Chapelle A, Ferris E, Carlson A. 2010. Sex and gender in sport: fallacy of the “level playing field.” Pediatric Research 68:149.

[ii] Bermon S, Garnier P, Lindén Hirschberg A, Robinson N, Giraud S, Nicoli R, Baume N, Saugy M, Fénichel P, Bruce S, Henry H, Dollé G, Ritzen M. 2014. Serum androgen levels in elite female athletes. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, doi: 10.1210/jc.2014–1391. http://press.endocrine.org/doi/abs/10.1210/jc.2014-1391

[iii] Jordan-Young R, Sonksen P, Karkazis K. 2014. Sex, health, and athletes. BMJ 2014;348:g2926.

[iv] International Olympic Committee. IOC regulations on female hyperandrogenism. 2014. www.olympic.org/Documents/Commissions_PDFfiles/Medical_commission/IOCRegulations-on-Female-Hyperandrogenism.pdf.

[v] Genel M, Ljungqvist A, Simpson JL, de la Chapelle A, Ferris E, Carlson A. 2010. Sex and gender in sport: fallacy of the “level playing field.” Pediatric Research 68:149.

[vi] Murray, T. H. 2010. Making Sense of Fairness in Sports. Hastings Center Report, 40: 13–15. doi: 10.1353/hcr.0.0241

Katrina Karkazis

Written by

Anthropologist & ethicist @Stanford. Guggenheim fellow. karkazis@stanford.edu