- 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.
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.
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)
Coronavirus-Stricken Cruise Ships Will Dock in Florida
- The Zaandam, a cruise liner holding passengers sick with the coronavirus, has been stranded at sea for weeks waiting to dock.
- Of the 2,000 on the ship, over 200 have reported flu-like symptoms and nine have tested positive for COVID-19. At least four died onboard.
- Officials say the Zaandam and the Rotterdam, its sister ship that was sent for support, will finally be able to disembark in Fort Lauderdale, Florida after initial resistance from local authorities.
- Disembarkation is expected to be completed by Friday evening.
Cruise Turned Nightmare
Two cruise ships that have been stricken by the coronavirus and stuck at sea for weeks will finally disembark at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
The decision was reached by multiple local and federal officials including Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis, Homeland Security, the Broward County Commission, and the cruise line, Holland America. Healthy passengers will be allowed to go home while the sick will remain on board.
“It was the right thing to do,” Broward County Commissioner Beam Furr told the Guardian. “We’ve been letting people in and out of this port for 100 years in good times and bad times. I’m proud we could do this.”
The deal comes after a suspenseful back-and-forth that has involved multiple parties and left over 2,000 passengers and crew members waiting onboard for weeks. More than 200 of these people have reported experiencing flu-like symptoms, and nine tested positive for the coronavirus, according to Holland America officials. Many guests are from countries other than the U.S.
The Zaandam cruise liner embarked for a trip along the coast of South America on March 7. The journey was supposed to end in Chile on March 21, but the coronavirus quickly escalated and things went awry.
After the WHO declared the coronavirus a pandemic, Holland America suspended its operations. The Zaandam continued to travel north after Chile closed its borders, but more countries denied the ship entry.
Then passengers on the boat started getting sick, exhibiting flu-like symptoms. Last week, Holland America deployed a second ship, the Rotterdam, to meet the Zaandam off of Panama. The Rotterdam was sent with medical supplies, more staff, and coronavirus tests.
Asymptomatic guests were transferred to the Rotterdam as well.
On Friday, Holland American announced that four elderly people on board had died. Carnival Corporation, Holland America’s parent company who owns the ship, said two of the dead had tested positive for COVID-19.
The nightmare has carried on for nearly four weeks now, but an end is finally in sight in Fort Lauderdale.
Back and Forth
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was initially resistant to the idea of allowing those on the ship to embark in his state. Cruise ships have shown to be a cesspool for the coronavirus and there are complications in the repatriation of people who are stranded at sea.
DeSantis has expressed worries about further spread of the outbreak as well as excess strain on medical facilities in the state.
“We view this as a big, big problem and we do not want to see people dumped in southern Florida right now,” DeSantis told Fox News.
But those aboard the ships have grown desperate. Family members of those onboard have pleaded for them to disembark. Holland America President Orlando Ashford wrote an open letter urging countries to show support in this “humanitarian crisis.”
President Trump himself offered a compassionate stance on Wednesday night as the situation dragged on.
“They’re dying, so we have to do something, and the governor knows that, too,” Trump said of those stuck on the sister ships. “We have to help the people. They are in big trouble.”
In updates on their website, Holland America outlined a plan for the passengers on the pair of ships. They said that U.S. Customs and Border Protection will clear passengers for entry into the country.
The nearly 1,200 guests fit for travel under CDC guidelines will be unloaded onto sanitized coaches. Person-to-person contact will be limited and masks will be worn, and these people will be taken straight from the ship to flights home, the majority on charter flights. Florida residents will return home immediately via private cars.
Holland America said the guests who still have symptoms and are unfit to travel will continue to isolate onboard until they recover. There are currently less than twenty people in need of immediate critical care, and they will be taken to local hospitals for treatment.
It wasn’t until these detailed disembarkation plans started to form that Florida officials softened their resistance against allowing the ship to dock on the state’s ground.
Mayor Trantalis, who was originally against the idea of allowing the ships into Florida, expressed more openness to it after hearing Holland America’s proposals.
“Their tone has completely changed to address the concerns we had,” Trantalis told the Guardian on Wednesday. “I was concerned that they were just going to let these people off to mingle with the people of my city. That would have been a nightmare.”
“But based on the conversation I had with the [Holland America] president, we are much further along in resolving this situation,” Trantalis said.
On Wednesday, DeSantis said the 52 Floridians onboard the ships would “clearly” be accepted and said he hoped a solution for the others was near.
DeSantis showed more of a change of heart on Thursday when he told Fox News that transferring critically ill patients to hospitals was “the humanitarian thing to do.”
“There is no easy solution to this,” the Governor said.
Yet it appears some kind of solution has finally arrived, and many aboard will return home very shortly.
“I look forward to a safe operation that protects the well-being of all involved,” Broward County Commissioner Michael Udine tweeted on Thursday.
See what others are saying: (New York Times) (NPR) (CNN)
Japanese PM Offers to Send Two Masks Per Family, But Won’t Declare Coronavirus Emergency
- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is refusing calls from citizens and other lawmakers to declare a state of emergency in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
- But on Wednesday, he did announce that the government will send two reusable masks to every household.
- Abe’s announcement was met with heavy criticism, with many people on social media pointing out that most families have more than two members.
- Many even originally took it as an April Fool’s joke.
- The criticism comes as medical experts warn that Japan’s healthcare system cannot handle a massive outbreak.
Abe Offers Masks But Refuses to Declare Emergency
In a move that has drawn an overwhelming amount of criticism, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced that the government would send each family in Japan two reusable masks, but he ignored repeated calls for him to declare a state of emergency in response to the spreading coronavirus.
While Japan has largely avoided the coronavirus pandemic (minus the disastrous Diamond Princess incident), that luck may soon run out. According to John Hopkins University on Thursday, Japan has only reported 2,384 cases and only 57 deaths; however, on Thursday, Tokyo alone reported 97 new cases, which is it’s highest single-day jump so far.
Currently, museums and schools in Tokyo are closed, but shops are still open. Restaurants are still allowing people to dine in. It’s also cherry blossom season, an event that typically attracts thousands of visitors each year. Despite concerns that people would ignore social distancing guidelines, this year is no different, and crowds have flocked to see the blooms.
Cue urges from both citizens and lawmakers for Abe to declare an emergency across the country. Though not legally binding, it would allow governors in different prefects to send out stronger messages when it comes to telling people to stay at home.
Still, Abe has refused, saying that such a move isn’t imminent. Instead, he opted to send citizens gauze masks that he says “will be helpful in responding to the rapidly increasing demand” for masks as major cities start to see runs on protective gear.
To put it lightly, Abe’s plan was not met with much praise as people worried how to strap two masks onto grandma, grandpa, and the kids all at the same time.
That conundrum was later part of a viral meme where a family of eight is forced to share two masks, with each family member lined up behind the next (just like any self-respecting family, the pet rightly took priority).
Alongside criticisms like that, both #Abe’sMask and #ScrewYourMasks” began trending on Twitter in Japan.
“At last, PM Abe decided to provide something to Japanese people,” one user sarcastically said. “What he provides us is……2 medical masks made of gauze per one family! Thank you Abe-san we can live as long as [we have] a gauze mask! You are really stupid!!!”
“I wish this had been just an April fool[‘s] joke,” another user said.
However, reportedly, many people considered the idea of the government sending only two masks to each family so outrageous that they actually did think it was an April Fool’s joke at first.
Others criticized the move for how long it will take people to even receive their masks. Reportedly, the government won’t begin mailing those masks until the week after next. By then, many fear the situation in the country could be much more drastic.
This is not Abe’s first instance with coronavirus-related criticism. Critics have accused Abe of consistently downplaying the threat of the coronavirus in order to not push back the now-postponed Tokyo Olympics. Abe has denied such accusations.
Medical Experts Warn that Japan’s Healthcare System Could Fail
The announcement comes a week after Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike told resident to work from home if possible and after she urged people to avoid bars, restaurants, and public gatherings until April 12.
It also comes as medical officials are warning that a surge in coronavirus cases could be disastrous for Japan’s healthcare system. Reportedly, hospitals in several major cities, including Tokyo and Osaka, are already being stretched thin. According to a government panel, “drastic countermeasures need to be taken as quickly as possible.”
“Fundamental responses should be made as early as today or tomorrow,” Shigeru Omi, head of the Japan Community Healthcare Organization, said at a news conference Wednesday night.
U.S. Governments Weigh Telling People to Wear Masks
In the United States where the situation has skyrocketed, there is also concern around masks and who should wear them.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently only recommends masks be worn by those who are sick. Notably, if you are not sick, the CDC says there is no need to wear a mask unless you’re caring for someone who is sick. That recommendation is also part of an attempt to ensure masks are saved for healthcare providers and caregivers.
This past week, however, CDC Director Robert Redfield said the agency is looking at potentially changing those guidelines, saying the data around it is, “being aggressively reviewed as we speak.”
This week, Trump’s Coronavirus Task Force has also indicated that it’s discussing potentially updating that recommendation.
“The idea of getting a much more broad community-wide use of masks outside of the health care setting is under very active discussion at the task force,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said. “The thing that has inhibited that a bit is to make sure we don’t take away the supply of masks from the health care workers who need them.”
“But when we get in a situation where we have enough masks,” he continued. “I believe there will be some very serious consideration about more broadening this recommendation of using masks. We’re not there yet, but I think we’re close to coming to some determination.”
Both a city and a county in California have also started to recommend the use of non-medical face coverings even among healthy people while out in public. On Tuesday, officials in Riverside County announced that recommendation and by Wednesday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti followed suit.
See what others are saying: (CNN) (Fox News) (Japan Times)
Malaysia Tells Women Not to Nag Spouses During COVID-19 Lockdown
- The Malaysian government released a series of infographics advising women on how to maintain a happy home during the country’s coronavirus lockdown.
- The posts told women to take on the playful tone of a cartoon character, wear makeup and dress up at home, and avoid nagging their partners, among other advice.
- Many were outraged by the infographics, slamming them as “sexist.” Others called it a poor response to concerns of spiking domestic violence cases as more people are forced indoors with their abusers.
- The government issued an apology following the backlash.
Malaysia’s government has apologized after receiving backlash for advising women to dress nicely and avoid nagging their spouses in order to maintain a happy home as the coronavirus prompted a nation-wide lockdown.
The advice came from online posters that were released across social media by the country’s Ministry for Women, Family, and Community Development and accompanied by the hashtag #WomenPreventCOVID19.
“If you see your partner doing something wrong, avoid nagging – use ‘humorous’ words like saying: ‘This is how you hang clothes my dear,’” the ministry wrote in a now-removed infographic.
This piece of advice was paired with another seemingly-bizarre nugget: use a high-pitched, squeaky voice instead, specifically imitating the popular Japanese cartoon character Doraemon, and follow your statement with a giggle.
The Ministry also encouraged women to avoid the use of sarcasm, and to continue to wear makeup and dress up even if working from home.
After the posters’ release earlier this week, the Ministry and its advice faced a slew of backlash, ranging from mockery to anger.
“[It] is extremely condescending both to women and men,” Nisha Sabanayagam, a manager at the Malaysian advocacy group All Women’s Action Society, told Reuters.
“These posters promote the concept of gender inequality and perpetuate the concept of patriarchy,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation over the phone.
Sabanayagam’s frustration was matched by many online.
“This is violently sexist,” one person tweeted. “Makes me angry even thinking about this.”
This is violently sexist. Makes me angry even thinking about this. Malaysia isn’t a theocratic state like Saudi but appareny treats its women the same.— Aditya Jain (@adityajain98) April 1, 2020
In one poster, Malaysia’s gender equality movement regresses five decades. Dah la illegitimate govt, incompetent pulak tu. @KPWKM— Lee Lian Kong (@leelian_kong) March 31, 2020
Some mocked the more ridiculous elements of the advice, like the hashtag’s message that somehow women can prevent the virus itself.
“How will dressing up and putting on makeup at home [prevent] Covid-19? Pray, tell?” one person wrote online.
Another piece of advice that was largely ridiculed was the suggestion to imitate the cartoon character Doraemon.
“I think my husband should speak to me in a Doraemon like voice. That will amuse me to bits and put me in a good mood,” a Twitter user said.
I think my husband should speak to me in a Doraemon like voice. That will amuse me to bits and put me in a good mood.— Wee Su Lin (@sulinwee) March 31, 2020
Others were outraged that these were the solutions to a happy home in the Ministry’s eyes, especially as more serious problems stem from stay-at-home orders, like a rise in domestic violence.
“How did we go from preventing baby dumping, fighting domestic violence to some sad variant of the Obedient Wives Club?” one person asked online.
After being scraped over the coals, the Ministry addressed the controversial advice and issued an apology Tuesday night.
It said its intentions were aimed at “maintaining positive relationships among family members during the period they are working from home.”
“We apologize if some of the tips we shared were inappropriate and touched on the sensitivities of some parties,” the Ministry said in a statement, adding that they will take caution in the future.