The Curious Case of Dutee Chand

International Jul 13, 2021

Dutee Chand, born on 3rd February 1996, is the current national champion in the women's 100 meters event and the first Indian to win a gold medal in the 100m race in a global competition. She is the third Indian woman to ever qualify for the women's 100 meters event at the Summer Olympic Games while also being the first openly homosexual Indian athlete.

However, those are not the only noteworthy things about her. She would finally be participating in the Tokyo Olympics after a long battle with  World Athletics (International Association of Athletics Federations, or IAAF). She, similarly to South Africa’s Caster Semenya, was banned from participating on the grounds of hyperandrogenism in 2014.  She had four options; to take drugs to lower the testosterone levels, have a very invasive surgery, or give up and live with this stigma for the rest of her life. She chose the fourth, to fight for her rights, and immediately called  Jiji Thompson, the director-general of Sports Authority of India (SAI).

He contacted Dr. Payoshni Mitra, a Ph.D. holder, researcher, and activist in the area of gender and sports as a consultant to SAI.  She contacted Dr. Katrina Karkazis from Stanford University ( a strong advocate against Hyperandrogenism Regulations) who emailed Bruce Rudd, another vocal activist against the hyperandrogenism policy since the regulations were announced in 2011.

He is a former Canadian long-distance runner, the principal of the University of Toronto, Scarborough, and an activist on gender equality and human rights. Bruce is also part of most panels at the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport, the country’s national anti-doping agency. After getting an email from Karkazis relating to Dutee Chand, he immediately talked to the Indian Delegation, learning from SAI that if he initiated the test case, SAI would support it. After getting all the details he required from Payoshni, he wrote a long letter to Jiji Thomson asking: ‘Why doesn’t the Indian government challenge it?’

After Jiji’s approval, Jim Bunting, a young lawyer in Toronto, took the case pro bono.

The appeal was filed to the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) by the end of September 2014. Jiji questioned the ban by mentioning the advantages of athlete Usain Bolt having his stride and swimmer Michael Phelps his disproportionately vast wingspan, double-jointed ankles, and low lactic acid production.  He asked if Phelps was asked to do something drastic about these advantages he was born with or suggested a medication to boost his lactic levels.

The CAS suspended the ban for 2 years, asking the IAAF to give solid proof if hyperandrogenism poses any threat to the fairness of the sport. Two years later, the IAF had to revise the rules allowing Dutee to participate in the Tokyo Olympics.

She will most probably qualify for the Tokyo Olympics based on her world rankings as she missed the qualification timing by less than 2 seconds. She aims to win a gold medal at the Games, not just as her dream but also as a tribute to the Flying Sikh, Milkha Singh, whose long-standing dream had been to see an Indian Sprinter win gold. Thus continues the curious case of Dutee Chand, born with flaws or advantages.

*Hyperandrogenism is an endocrinological disorder that occurs due to the excess secretion of male hormones like testosterone in females. This is usually the result of the difference in sexual development (DSD).

This article has been written by Ruchi Thakur for The Paradigm

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