Kristen Worley is on a mission. The Canadian cyclist is determined to make it to the 2008 Olympics, but even more the transitioned athlete - the term she prefers over transsexual - hopes to prevent a repeat of what happened to Shanti Soundarajan. A runner from India who won a silver medal for womenâs 800 meters at the 2006 Asian Games, Soundarajan drew international scrutiny when she âfailedâ a gender test and was stripped of her medal. Three weeks ago, the 26-year-old slipped into a coma after attempting suicide.
The Indian Olympic Association reported that the athlete âdoes not possess the sexual characteristics of a womanâ and implied she had intentionally deceived them. But Soundarajan and her family insisted sheâd done nothing wrong. Itâs speculated that Soundarajan was born with androgen insensitivity syndrome (AIS), which results in the external physical characteristics typically associated with women despite having XY chromosomes.
lthough the International Olympic Committee (IOC) discontinued gender testing female athletes in 1999, the Olympic Council of Asia continues the controversial practice.
Worley, a world-class cyclist and water skier, mounted a campaign to get Soundarajanâs medal returned. She calls the situation an example of âa gender policy gone terribly wrong,â and lays the blame on IOCâs misguided gender policies. âThe IOC lied to the world,â Worley argues. âWhich compromised so many athletesâand peopleâs understanding of gender variance and intersexed issuesâŠThe IOCâs gender practices have created undo invasiveness and disrespect and violations of womenâs bodies.â
Sheâs also critical of IOCâs 2004 Stockholm Consensus, which set forth regulations transsexual athletes must meet in order to compete at the Olympics. Although the IOC ruling seemed to welcome transitioned athletes, Worley insists that was never the case. âThe policy is totally exclusionary. In fact, it was designed that way on purpose. There was never an effort to make it inclusive.â
Instead, Worley says, âIt was a step to protect sports, from what was perceived as a threat. Yet, when the science is on the table, there is no threat and [transitioned] athletes are incredibly disadvantaged, with over a dozen or more well know contraindications.â
A year ago, Worley says, an IOC representative disclosed that the policy wasnât based on scientific research. IOC medical director, Dr. Patrick Schamasch - on a conference call - admitted that the agency hadnât done its homework and offered to re-consider the ruling if someone would âget them the science.â
âWasnât that your job?â Worley purportedly responded, âTo do that prior to releasing such a policy to the global public?â
In addition to working with the IOC, Worley, golfer Mianne Bagger and trans activist Jamison Green have meet with sports organizations, coaches and athletes to educate them on the issues facing transitioned athletes. Theyâve been particularly successful in Canada, even gaining financial support from the Canadian government.
Earlier this year, Worley gave a presentation at the Canadian Academy of Sport Medicineâs annual symposium and Green and Worley penned an influential paper for the World Anti-Doping Agency, addressing the anti-doping codeâs therapeutic exemptions and the use of therapeutic testosterone. Unlike other female athletes, transitioned women have no testosterone and must receive testosterone therapy to bring their levels up to those of other women their age.
Worley wonât learn if sheâs made it to the 2008 Olympics until the World Track & Field Championships next March. When sheâs not training or changing the world, Worley is a design engineer for a water ski boat manufacturer. Sharing her love for the water sport, this summer Worley hosted a ski day for gender variant teens.
âThis beautiful young boyâŠlooked like Harry Potter. [He] said, âUntil today I felt like a broken toy.â This is why what Iâm doing is so important. It has little to do with me personally or my own efforts as an athlete, [but] itâs important to me, to see others succeed.â
Trans writer, Jacob Anderson-Minshall, co-authored Blind Leap, the second book in the Blind Eye Mystery series, available in October. ContactÂ or visit Anderson-minshall.com for more information.