Journal of Genetic Counseling

, Volume 19, Issue 6, pp 545–548 | Cite as

Beyond the Caster Semenya Controversy: The Case of the Use of Genetics for Gender Testing in Sport

  • Ambroise WonkamEmail author
  • Karen Fieggen
  • Raj Ramesar


Caster Semenya won the eight-hundred-meter title in the Berlin World Athletics Championships in 2009. Few hours after, Caster was at the center of a harsh contestation on gender. The International Association of Athletics Federations started an investigation, which was not respectful of her privacy. Caster’s case highlights the need for an improvement in the awareness of genetic counseling principles amongst professionals, the public and various stakeholders. We critically examine the historical steps of gender verification in the Olympics, the violation of genetic counseling principles in Caster’s case and outline some reflections on the complexity of the genetics of Disorders of sex development (DSD). Variability in both genotypes and phenotypes in DSD may not allow any etiological or functional classification at this point in time that could permit uncontroversial gender verification for fairer sport participation. We strongly suggest revisiting the pertinence of gender verification, and the process whereby this is done.


Caster Semenya Genetics Gender testing Sport 


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Copyright information

© National Society of Genetic Counselors, Inc. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ambroise Wonkam
    • 1
    • 2
    • 4
    Email author
  • Karen Fieggen
    • 1
  • Raj Ramesar
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Division of Human Genetics, Faculty of Health SciencesUniversity of Cape TownCape TownSouth Africa
  2. 2.Faculty of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences-University of Yaoundé IYaoundéCameroon
  3. 3.MRC/UCT Human Genetics Research Unit, Institute for Infectious Diseases and Molecular Medicine, Faculty of Health SciencesUniversity of Cape TownCape TownSouth Africa
  4. 4.Faculty of Health SciencesUniversity of Cape Town, South AfricaCape TownSouth Africa

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