Just when Odisha sprinter Dutee Chand was finding her feet in the international athletics circuit last summer, she faced the harrowing experience of being dropped from the Commonwealth Games squad for not clearing a so called “gender test”. She was banned from taking part in any kind of national or international athletics event.
But the 19-year-old refused to be bogged down by the weight of the ban and instead chose to challenge it.
On Monday, she was a relieved woman as the Court for Arbitration for Sports (CAS) cleared Dutee to take part in both national and international athletics events.
The court has also given a two-year time period to the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF ) to provide scientific evidence that shows hyperandrogenic female athletes have a performance advantage.
After the verdict was announced, Dutee told The Sunday Guardian that she was absolutely relieved and happy that the court ruled in her favour. “I went through a horrid time. I was completely broken. I could not even go back to my village. People asked me weird questions. There were people who made nasty remarks behind my back. Now that the CAS has given me clearance, I can concentrate on training,” she said.
“There were people who came to my house in Jajpur(Odisha) and asked my parents whether I was a girl or a boy. Just imagine the kind of pain my parents went through.”- Dutee
Dutee’s weaver parents, who make less than Rs 100 a day, also had to go through turbulent times due to the ban. “There were people who came to my house in Jajpur and asked my parents whether I was a girl or a boy. Just imagine the kind of pain my parents went through.”
However, Dutee’s parents, never lost hope and encouraged their daughter to fight on. “My mother told me not to lose hope. She asked me to stand firm in faith. They are over joyous now and just want me to do well on the field.”
Dutee admitted the one-year break that she had to endure due to the ban has affected her performance immensely. “I am training very rigorously. I am not in the best shape now but I will come back strong. I want to qualify for the Rio Olympics. I would really like to thank Anglian Medal Hunt( a sports management company) for sponsoring me even while I was serving the ban.”
Payoshni Mitra, a researcher and activist on gender and sports, had suggested Chand to appeal the ban in the first place. “I think the only contribution that I had to make was to tell her that there was a legal option for her to pursue. I simply had to be there, coordinating, helping to bring together the best possible team to support her. I am so glad that the Sports Minister and SAI DG Jiji Thomson was supportive,” Mitra said.
“People told me to seek medical help to lower my testosterone levels. There were a lot of people who told fighting a case would be of no help and it would only prolong my absence from the field. But I knew I did not do anything wrong, hence I decided to challenge the ban,” said Dutee.
Dutee is the first athlete ever to challenge IAAF’s Hyperandrogenism Regulations, which were introduced in 2011. The regulations barred any woman athlete with testosterone levels higher than the “male range” to take part in the women’s category.
Dutee’s efforts have opened the doors for other female athletes who have suffered similar plights. “We had challenged the Hyperandrogenism Regulation because we felt they were flawed, and we have been successful. We expect this to be the end of it,” added Mitra.
Dutee concluded by saying sports bodies should deal more sensitively in such cases. “We stay away from our families and work hard to earn laurels for our country. But when we are treated this way, it pains us beyond imagination,” she said.