June 22, 2024

Former Polish sprinter demands Christine Mboma take sex-reaffirming test after her Olympic medal win

Namibian sprinter Christine Mboma proudly draped the Namibian flag around her shoulders Tuesday after winning the silver medal in the women’s Olympic 200-meter race, just over one month after learning she could not compete in her signature 400m due to elevated testosterone levels.

Her dominant performance of 21.81 seconds elicited controversial remarks from retired Polish sprinter Marcin Urbaś, who demanded Mboma take a sex-reaffirming test to confirm she “definitely is a woman.”

“I would like to request a thorough test on Mboma to find out if she definitely is a woman,” Urbaś told Spanish sports news outlet Marca.

Christine Mboma of Team Namibia poses with the silver medal for the Women’s 200m Final on day twelve of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on August 04, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Eligibility rules for women runners have been fiercely debated for years, as many have called out the Olympics for over-policing women — specifically African women — with differences of sexual development (DSD) including XY chromosomes and elevated levels of testosterone. 

In 2018, World Athletics introduced regulations banning athletes with “elevated” testosterone from specifically participating in women’s races between 400-meters and 1600-meters. Athletes such as South Africa’s Caster Semenya, Kenya’s Margaret Wambui, Burundi’s Francine Niyonsaba, Namibia’s Beatrice Masilingi and others have all been banned from competing in Olympic events due to DSD regulations.

Mboma, 18, has a condition called hyperandrogenism that leads to a hyperproduction of testosterone in her body. 

Urbaś, who retired from professional competition in 2009, referenced Mboma’s testosterone levels as justification for his demand, adding that Mboma’s personal records at age 18 are faster than his were at the same age.

“The testosterone advantage of Mboma over other participants is seen with the naked eye. In construction, movement, technique, at the same time as speed and endurance.  She has the parameters of an 18-year-old boy,” Urbaś said. “At that age, my PB was 22.01, and she has done it in 21.97 in Tokyo.”

Urbaś proceeded to claim it is unfair for Mboma to compete with other runners who are “definitely women.”

“With progression and improvement in her technique, she will soon drop to 21.00 seconds in 200m and 47.00 seconds in the 400m,” he said. “We will continue to think that she is fair and equal, and it is a clear and insolent injustice against women who are definitely women.”

While athletes such as Mboma, Semenya, Wambui and others are punished for their natural genetics, the genetic ‘anomalies’ of other Olympians — such as 23-time gold medalist Michael Phelps’ 6’7” wingspan and double-jointed ankles — are celebrated and treated as unique gifts.

No matter how Urbaś or anyone else feels about Mboma’s genetic condition, the fact remains that she will add Tuesday’s 200-meter silver medal to a long list of career accolades including her current world record for the event’s under-20 division.

Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson-Herah narrowly bested Mboma at Tuesday’s event with her winning time of 21.53. The United States’ Gabrielle Thomas took home bronze with a time of 21.87.

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