The world’s peak body on intersex issues has urged the International Olympic Committee to drop gender testing for athletes, following the publicised speculation over South African runner Caster Semenya.

Organisation Intersex International has launched an online petition calling for an end to gender testing and for greater efforts to recognise intersex variations.

In its first week, the petition has already garnered 300 signatures.

“The IOC needs to get out of the business of sex and gender testing, and into the business of athletic integrity and honesty,” OII Australia spokeswoman Gina Wilson said.

Wilson said the IOC’s problems with gender testing and intersex athletes stretch back to the 1936 Berlin Olympics when an athlete was accused of being a man in disguise. The IOC later forced athletes to strip, in a crude estimation of gender testing.

Testing was finally dropped at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, a positive step in Wilson’s view. Last year, however, the International Association of Athletics Associations ordered Semenya be tested after her win in the 800 metres at the World Championships in Athletics.

Wilson urged the IOC to introduce sensitivity training for athletes to combat this kind of stigma.

“They are yet to show that any of these genetic variances can confer any sort of advantage, but still that idea persists,” she said.

“The Olympics is an event where everyone comes together, from different cultures, which can bring with it some negative views — strong gender expectations and misogyny. Having an education campaign could be very useful.”

info: To sign OII’s petition visit http://www.intersexualite.org/IOC-petition.html

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