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'Gender-Benders': Sports and Sex Determination

'And after all, what is a lie? Tis but the truth in a masquerade'
- Lord Byron

The Olympic games is a sporting event that brings together the sporting// fraternity of the modern world. The razzle, dazzle and display of the Games are unmatched and every athlete worth his salt aspires to participate.

But the history of the Games is not without blemishes. Women athletes were barred from participating in the Olympics, much to their chagrin. With years the ban lifted and more women began to participate. It was then that trouble began to brew and, querries were raised challenging the feminity of some of the most successful female athletes especially from Eastern Europe and the USSR. It was believed that in order to win, male athletes, or athletes who were intersex, masqueraded as females. These developments were of importance even from a political angle, as they happened during the 'Cold' War between the USA and the USSR.

Sex determination testing was undertaken for the first time in 1966, during the European Track and Field events. The purpose of this move was to detect male imposters, who would have a natural advantage while competing with females. Initial attempts at gender verification involved the female athletes parading naked before a panel of gynecologists. Years later these crude physical examinations were replaced by laboratory tests, such as detection of the Barr body, which is the inactivated X chromosome present in the nucleated cells of all normal females but absent in normal males. Ironically these tests did nothing to prevent the males with genotypic variations from participating in the Games.

Genetic basis of gender assignment: By 1980, the Barr body test was considered redundant and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) replaced it with the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test to detect the SRY gene, linked to the Y chromosome, usually present in males. This was initiated during the
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