On August 3, Namibian Kristin Mbomah rewrote sports history. The 18 year-old female athlete set a new youth world record in the 200 m race. She covered the distance in 21.81 seconds, not only for the record holder, but also for silver in the 2020 Games. The medal was the first for Christian’s home country since 1996.
Interestingly, it was 25 years ago that another African, Mary Onyali-Omagbemi of Nigeria, won bronze in the same event.
- Gold in yesterday’s race went to Jamaican runner Elaine Thompson-Hera, who, with a time of 21.53, also set a unique achievement. She managed to become the first athlete to take gold in the 100 and 200 metres at two Olympic Games. As a result, Elaine repeated the success of her illustrious compatriot Usain Bolt, who enjoyed similar successes in 2008, 2012 and 2016.
- As for bronze, Gabrielle Thomas of the USA was placed third. Her time is 21.87.
What’s wrong with Mbom’s success
The problem lies in the peculiarities of the athlete’s body, or more specifically, her testosterone levels. After all, Mbom, like another representative of Namibia Beatriz Masilinga (who became the best in the qualification with a new youth world record, and the day before she finished sixth), has a significant excess of the natural level of the male hormone in her blood since early years.
This hormonal disorder is called hyperandrogenism. Needless to say, the benefits it brings to runners include an explosive start, endurance and stress tolerance. All of this has helped Christine to set all sorts of records along the way. However, the intersex athlete’s performances in distances from 400 metres onwards are not recognised by the world association as a personal, world or African record. The reason?
According to the World Athletics rule (introduced in late 2018 and confirmed by the UN International Court of Justice), female athletes with gender differences (DSD) cannot take part in the 400m to 1500m running disciplines with testosterone levels above five nanomoles per litre of blood. This is in view of the fact that in the blood of a normal woman this level does not exceed three units.
Criticism, it’s here too
The public’s displeasure is understandable. In fact, the Tokyo silver medallist, with her testosterone off the charts and her technique as far from high as possible, had an “unsportsmanlike superiority” over the other girls. Of course, at the only distance available to Mbom. Only the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is turning a blind eye as the athlete did not break any rules.
But the matter is only resolved in the short term. In the longer term, the organisers should urgently reconsider the rules for the admission of special athletes and stop entering the minority position at the cost of defeating the majority of athletes deprived of their “natural” advantage.