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Court Rules Discrimination “Necessary” for Female Runners With High Testosterone

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  • The Court for Arbitration for Sport has ruled that it is “necessary” to discriminate against female track athletes with naturally high levels of testosterone.
  • The decision upholds a rule imposed by the International Association of Athletics Federations that requires athletes classified with differences of sexual development (DSD) to take hormone suppressants in order to compete in certain races.
  • The case was brought forward by Caster Semenya, a female runner with higher testosterone levels, who has been battling the IAAF for the last decade.

IAAF Regulation Upheld

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled Wednesday that discrimination against female track athletes with naturally high levels of testosterone is necessary to protect other female competitors.

The decision from the highest court in international sports upholds a regulation put in place by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the governing body for track and field. The IAFF regulation requires female runners who have certain levels of testosterone to use hormone suppressants to lower their levels.

Athletes that do not comply will not be allowed to compete in certain races at major competitions like the Olympics.

The case was brought to the CAS by South African track star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Caster Semenya, who asked the court to overturn the rule. Semenya is a woman who has naturally occurring high levels of testosterone. The new IAAF regulations, first introduced in 2018, would force her to suppress her hormones in order to compete in her main event, the 800 meter.

The IAAF has said that the regulations were necessary to even the playing field, arguing that athletes classified with differences of sexual development (DSD) have an unfair advantage.

The organization says this is particularly true for women who have high testosterone levels who run in women’s events ranging from the 400 meter to the mile, because those races can be won by a hundredth of a second.

IAAF claims this is because women with high levels of male hormones have more muscle mass, strength, and higher oxygen-carrying capacity.

Court Decision

According to an official a summary of the case, CAS found that the IAAF regulations are “discriminatory,” but still ruled in favor of them in a 2-to-1 decision.

“Such discrimination is a necessary, reasonable and proportionate means of achieving the legitimate objective of ensuring fair competition in female athletics in certain events and protecting the ‘protected class’ of female athletes in those events,” the summary said.

However, the court did express “serious concerns” about the “practical application” of testosterone limits, such as athletes struggling to maintain the required hormone levels even with the suppressants, and the fact that it may be impossible for some athletes to comply because of the side effects caused by the suppressants.

CAS was also concerned about a lack of evidence that suggests DSD runners really have a significant advantage at longer-distance races like the 1,500 meter and the mile. Regarding this, the court asked IAAF to consider not applying the rule to those races until they have more evidence.

Semenya’s Record

While the court’s decision certainly comes as a blow to Semenya, this isn’t the first time that she has had to deal with this kind of problem.

In 2009, Semenya won a gold medal in the 800-meter race at the world track and field championships when she was only 18. However, her win raised questions about her gender, which prompted IAAF to subject her to a gender verification process.

This resulted in IAAF deeming her ineligible to compete for 11 months. IAAF’s handling of the situation was widely criticized, with South African officials and others saying that the tests were racist and sexist.

Semenya, for her part, has always said that she is a woman and that she should be able to compete in women’s events without suppressants or body-altering measures.

“God made me the way I am, and I accept myself,” she said in a magazine interview in 2009. “I am who I am, and I’m proud of myself.”

In 2011, IAAF adopted new regulations regarding eligibility for DSD women. This move did not seem to impact Semenya, who went on to win her first Olympic gold in 2012.

However, the rule did disproportionally effect other women, promoting CAS to overrule the regulation in 2015 when female Indian sprinter Dutee Chand brought it to the court after she had been indefinitely banned from competing.

Following that decision, Semenya went on to win gold again at the 2016 Olympics. However, her win angered IAAF president, Sebastian Coe, who said he would challenge CAS’s ruling. That ultimately led to IAAF introducing the new, more restrictive regulations in 2018.

In a statement released news outlets Wednesday, Semenya expressed her dismay for the court’s decision, but said the ruling would not hold her back.

“I know that the IAAF’s regulations have always targeted me specifically. For a decade the IAAF has tried to slow me down, but this has actually made me stronger,” she wrote. “The decision of the CAS will not hold me back. I will once again rise above and continue to inspire young women and athletes in South Africa and around the world.”

Support for Semenya

Other’s have echoed Semenya’s sentiments and expressed support for her.

The South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) criticized the decision in a statement to the Associated Press, saying “We maintain that the rules are ill-thought and will be a source of distress for the targeted female athletes.”

The official twitter account for the Government of South Africa quoted Tokozile Xasa, the former South African Minister for Tourism, in a tweet showing support for Semenya.

Additionally, the World Medical Association called on doctors all over the world to not implement the rule.

“We have strong reservations about the ethical validity of these regulations,” the Association’s president, Dr. Leonid Eidelman said in a statement. “They are based on weak evidence from a single study, which is currently being widely debated by the scientific community.”

U.S. tennis star Billie Jean King also expressed dissappointment with the court’s decision and showed her support for Semenya on twitter, writing “I stand with you.”

Support for IAAF

However, not everyone is upset about the decision.

The IAAF celebrated their win, writing in a statement, “The IAAF is grateful to the Court of Arbitration for Sport for its detailed and prompt response to the challenge made to its Eligibility Regulations for the Female Classification for athletes with differences of sex development.”

The decision was also supported by some female runners, like Paula Radcliffe, the world-record holder in the women’s marathon, who reportedly said that she respected CAS’s decision “for ruling that women’s sport needs rules to protect it.”

What Comes Next?

Semenya will now have the opportunity to appeal the case to Switzerland’s Supreme Court, which has jurisdiction because CAS is based in Switzerland. Athletics South Africa (ASA) has already said they are going to look into this option, comparing the decision to Apartheid.

“South Africa knows discrimination better and CAS has seen it fit to open the wounds of Apartheid, a system of discrimination condemned by the whole world as a crime against humanity,” ASA said in a statement. “For CAS does not only condone discrimination, but also goes to lengths to justify it.”

However, the Supreme Court often does not overturn decisions from CAS. As of now, if Semenya wants to defend her title at the world championships in September, she and others with DSD will have to take hormone suppressants.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Associated Press) (The Guardian)

International

Petition Calls for Ban on Sexualized Fanfiction in South Korea

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  • A petition circulating across South Korea calls for sexualized fanfiction depicting K-pop stars and other real people to be outlawed and classified as sex crimes.
  • The petition particularly focuses on the way male stars are depicted in same-sex relationships and argues that they often feature people who are minors.
  • A similar petition was submitted last week to President Moon Jae-in; however, it focused on deep fakes. Because both petitions have over 200,000 signatures, they will need to be addressed by President Moon.

K-Pop Fanfiction Causes Chaos

A petition began circulating across South Korea this week demanding that “real person slash” fanfiction works be outlawed and charged as sex crimes.

“Real person slash” refers to a specific form of fanfiction that most often features sexualized versions of K-pop stars and other real people.

In particular, the petition focuses on the way male stars are depicted in same-sex relationships and the age of some of the people being portrayed. The petition notes, “due to the nature of the profession of idols, whose average age is young, many of the victims are still minors or children.”

The petition was submitted to the Blue House, South Korea’s version of the White House, and currently has over 200,000 signatures. It received a big boost in attention after K-pop star Nancy, from the group Momoland, was secretly filmed by a member of her agency while she was changing backstage. This person then doctored some of the images and uploaded them online.

While Nancy’s case isn’t hand-drawn fanfic, it did fuel outrage at what’s seen as an ineffective approach towards sex crimes in the country. Signers of this petition believe that these fanfics fall into the same category of likely illegality as deep fakes.

Deep Fakes Also Being Targeted

Additionally, just last week deep fakes – which often feature k-pop stars – had its own petition submitted to the president last week with over 300,000 signatures.

Because both petitions have over 200,000 signatures, they will need to be addressed by President Moon Jae-in

For years South Korea has struggled with secret cameras, deep fakes, revenge porn, and more violent sex crimes, such as the infamous Nth Room case that saw certain stars filming themselves having sex with women against their consent.

See What Others Are Saying: (CNA) (The Korea Herald) (South China Morning Post)

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Italy Begins Largest Mob Trial in Decades

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  • Italian prosecutors have started their trial against more than 320 defendants linked to the  ‘Ndrangheta crime syndicate.
  • The charges range from murder and drug trafficking to extortion and money laundering.
  • The case is so large, high-profile, and potentially dangerous that the government built a bunker for the event in Calabria, the home territory of the ‘Ndrangheta.
  • Details uncovered could deliver a massive blow to organized crime in Italy and potentially across the world as the ‘Ndrangheta has major dealings in Europe, Australia, and the Americas.

Hundreds of ‘Ndranghetisti Facing Charges

A major mob trial kicked off in Italy Wednesday involving more than 320 defendants who are part of or associated with the ‘Ndrangheta crime syndicate.

In addition to these defendants going on trial, 90 others have elected for a fast-tracked trial elsewhere in Calabria.

While this is a massive affair, it’s still not the country’s largest mob-related trial in history. That happened in the ’80s against the Cosa Nostra from Sicily.

The trial is so high-profile and potentially dangerous that the government built a bunker for the event in Calabria, close to the home territory of the ‘Ndrangheta.

The court is looking at many charges against the defendants, including extortion, drug and arms trafficking, money laundering, and Mafia association – a term used in Italy’s penal code for members of organized crime.

Breaking Into the Family

Investigators hope that the trial will show just how entrenched organized crime is in the territory, as it’s believed that the ‘Ndrangheta has dealings with local politicians and businessmen. These dealings are believed to not only stem from their illicit activities but also from their legitimate businesses that were initially funded via crime-related funds. Either way, the trial is seen as a major blow for the group.

The organization is made up of multiple groups of tight-knight families that are all interconnected. For years investigators have tried to get more information on the group but following the arrest and prosecution of Luigi Mancuso, a boss in the ‘Ndrangheta, investigators finally had a way to look more closely at 12 families who make up part of the ‘Ndrangheta.

During their investigation police and prosecutors managed to turn some members of those families and use them as informants. They are expected to take the stand as witnesses during the trial. In total, prosecutors hope to put bring out over 900 witnesses.

If successful, this could be a massive blow to organized crime in Italy and potentially across the world as the ‘Ndrangheta has major dealing in Europe, Australia, and the Americas.

See What Others Are Saying: (ABC News) (LA Times) (Chicago Tribune)

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Hundreds Sickened By Mysterious Illness in India

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  • A mystery illness has hospitalized over 500 people in India and is linked to one death. While most people have recovered and been discharged from the hospital, under 100 people are still being treated.
  • Health officials believe that it is not a viral infection and that it is not tied to the coronavirus pandemic. One official told The Washington Post that it is a “point source epidemic,” but no one knows what is causing it.
  • Blood tests showed patients had high levels of lead and nickel and officials are trying to find what is behind that. Some are also pointing to pesticides used in mosquito treatment as a potential cause behind the outbreak.
  • Still, health officials are puzzled, and the situation comes while India currently trails the United States as the country with the most coronavirus cases. This mystery outbreak is also occurring in one of the hardest-hit states.

Mystery Illness in India

Health officials are still looking for what might be causing a mysterious illness that has sickened hundreds of people this month in India. 

The unidentified illness has put over 500 people in the hospital and taken one life. Most patients have been discharged and recovered but under 100 are still being treated. The disease was first reported on Sunday, and new instances have gone down since the start of the week.

The outbreak started in the state of  Andhra Pradesh. Symptoms range from nausea to anxiety to loss of consciousness, and in some cases, seizures. Some reports say the patient who died suffered from a seizure. Others note they may have fallen as well.

Many patients describe the sickness as hitting them quickly and suddenly as they were going about their day. Some got foggy vision, sore eyes, or incredibly tired before passing out. Many woke up in the hospital and were left with a gap in their memory. 

While the cause of this disease is unknown, health officials do not believe it is tied to the coronavirus in any way as no patients have tested positive. The illness is also not believed to be a viral infection of any kind. 

“What has been established by experts is that this is a case of acute intoxication of toxins. It is not chronic in nature. This is all we know for now,” one high-ranking official told The Washington Post. 

Because cases are already slowing significantly, some believe it might have stemmed from an isolated source or event. 

“This is a point source epidemic,” another official told the Post. “Whatever happened, occurred for one particular day and some people got affected. The number of new patients has dropped.”

Potential Causes

What that source or event may have been remains a mystery that officials are eager to solve. So far, no commonalities have been found between the patients as they all live in different places, are of different ages, and do not test positive for other kinds of illnesses that could be causing or contributing to this outbreak. Clues are beginning to emerge, though. 

One medical official told Al Jazeera that high lead and nickel levels were found in the blood tests of patients. So far, ten have been tested and another 30 will be tested shortly. At first officials thought these levels may have been a result of water contamination, but after water tests were conducted, neither lead nor nickel were found. 

Water contamination as a whole has not been ruled out though. 

“Health experts suspect that excessive use of bleaching powder and chlorine in sanitation programmes as part of Covid-19 prevention measures may be the cause of water contamination,” the Health Minister of Andhra Pradesh told the Indian Express. “This is just one of the causes we are exploring.”

Another theory at play stems from the fact that organochlorines, which are used as pesticides in mosquito control, were found in some water samples. One of the federal legislators in the state believes that the sickness could be tied to that. A public health director confirmed to Al Jazeera that “it is one of the possibilities.”

Timing With COVID-19

Still, all these ideas simply remain possibilities and officials have far more questions than they have answers about this situation. Health officials from the country and the World Health Organization have established a presence in Andhra Pradesh to get to the bottom of the situation.

The timing of this outbreak is unfortunate as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread through India. While daily cases are much lower than they were when it peaked in September in the country, it still remains an issue. 

India is behind the United States in seeing the second-highest number of COVID-19 cases, totaling 9.7 million infections. Around 141,000 people have died in the country. In August, their outbreak was the fastest growing in the world. Andhra Pradesh is among the hardest-hit states in the country. 

Hope is on the horizon as India, like many other countries, could be on track to approve a vaccine within weeks. According to Reuters, health officials will prioritize 300 million people, including healthcare workers, policemen, and those above the age of 50.

See what others are saying: (Al Jazeera) (Indian Express) (Washington Post)

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