Kenyan 800m Olympic medallist calls for third category in athletics

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Kenyan 2016 Olympic Games 800m bronze medallist says the World Athletics should introduce a third category of events in order to allow competitors with high testosterone levels to compete in their preferred disciplines.

Like other athletes classified as having differences of sexual development – or DSD – Wambui cannot contest any distance between 400-metres and one mile in the female category unless she artificially reduces her testosterone levels.

The sport’s governing body, World Athletics, says it has no plans to introduce such a category and will stick to its current classifications of men’s and women’s events.

The idea of a third category in athletics has been floated before, but Wambui is the first athlete to express outright support for the suggestion.

The 25-year-old, who has not raced competitively since July 2019, will not be competing at the Tokyo Olympics, having struggled to choose between competing in either sprints or long distances.

Since World Athletics introduced its latest rules governing DSD athletes in 2018, not one of the three athletes who stood on the 800-metres podium in Rio has contested the distance at a global international championship.

At the 2016 Games, Wambui was beaten to gold by South Africa’s Caster Semenya and silver by Burundi’s Francine Niyonsaba.

On Wednesday, Niyonsaba qualified for the Olympics in the 5,000m.

The three are classified as having differences in sexual development owing to their higher-than-normal testosterone levels. These DSD athletes consider themselves barred from the distance.

According to the World Athletics rules published in 2018, female DSD athletes cannot run any event between 400m and one mile – unless they lower their high testosterone levels, which the athletics global body claims give the runners an unfair advantage.

Athletics’ global body says testosterone can boost endurance and muscle mass, among other effects, and that the DSD rules are needed to “ensure fair and meaningful competition within the female classification”.

Athletes can reduce levels by taking specific drugs or having surgery – although the second is not necessarily recommended.

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