Category Archives: Athletics

Teams suspended from Olympic competition

In November, it was announced that no Bulgarian weightlifters will compete at the Rio 2016 Olympics, as a punishment for an excessive amount of doping positives among Bulgarian lifters. Such a suspension is not unique, but – fortunately – still relatively rare. We’ll take a look at other exclusions in Olympic history.

Just look at Bulgaria’s Olympic weightlifting history already reveals a few similar cases. In 1988, the team withdrew after two gold medallists (Mitko Grabnev and Angel Genchev) had tested positive for doping. Twelve years later, three Bulgarian medallists, including gold medallist Izabela Dragneva, were caught with performance enhancing drugs, which was followed by a suspension of the rest of the weightlifting team. In 2008, Bulgaria chose not to compete in the Olympics, with no less than 11 national team members facing doping suspensions in the run-up to the Games. Those low points are now followed by a suspension ahead of the Games.

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One of the players in Bulgaria’s tainted Olympic weightlifting past: Izabela Dragneva.

Another group of athletes possibly facing suspension are the Russian track and field athletes. Following a recent report by WADA, the International Assocation of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has supended Russian athletes from competing internationally. Depending on how quick they can reform, they may also miss the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

A similar exclusion came in 1988, when Mexico was banned by the international football federation (FIFA), after they were found to have knowingly used at least four players over the age limit in an U20 tournament. All Mexican representative teams were banned for a period of two years, including the Olympic team that had already qualified for Seoul. They were replaced by Guatemala.

Another age-related suspension was handed out in 2010 by the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG). In gymnastics, there is a minimum age for competitors, and North Korea was found to have submitted false birth dates for at least two competitors. They were suspended from international competition for two years, which included the 2012 London Games.

In the past, it has happened several times that nations were not allowed to compete at the Olympics. The first such occasion came in 1920. Despite the fact that Olympic renovator Pierre de Coubertin was not in favor, the (perceived) aggressors of World War I – Austria, Germany, Hungary and Turkey – were not invited. The Germans were not invited in 1924 either, leaving them to return on the Olympic podium only in St. Moritz 1928. Twenty years later, Germany could also not enter the Olympics. Following World War II, the country had been divided by the four allied nations, and the German National Olympic Committee therefore did not formally represent any recognized nation. However, Japan was not allowed to compete in the 1948 Games either, suggestion this formal reason might merely have been an excuse to not invite the war aggressors.

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Activist Dennis Brutus campaigned for Apartheid-era South Africa to be banned from the Olympics – with eventual success.

The 1964 Olympics were marked by the suspension of the South African NOC, a year earlier. The South African NOC did not allow mixed-race competition, which was in conflict with the IOC’s non-discrimination policies. In 1970, South Africa was expelled from the International Olympic Committee and only reinstated in 1992. A similar fate befell Rhodesia – present-day Zimbabwe – when its invitation for the 1972 Olympics was revoked shortly before the opening ceremony, and the NOC was suspended. Most African nations did not recognize the (white) Ian Smith regime, and threatened to boycott the Munich Games if the nation were allowed to compete. Rhodesian athletes had already missed the 1968 Olympics when strict interpretation of passport rules meant they could not enter Mexico. Competitors from Taiwan suffered from the same issue in 1976, when they were unable to enter Canada.

Following the break-up of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, a United Nations resolution prohibited teams representing that country at sports events. Individual athletes were allowed to compete, and so the IOC created Individual Olympic Participants, allowing such athletes to take part in Barcelona 1992.

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In 1999, the Taliban-ruled Afghanistan was suspended from competition, among others for not allowing women to compete in sports. As of 2012, four Afghan women have competed in the Olympics.

In more recent years, several National Olympic Committees have been suspended by the IOC for not abiding by the rules of the Olympic Charter. Frequently, this concerns government intervention in the NOC, but there may be other reasons. Such suspensions include:

  • Venezuela in 1993
  • Iraq in 2003-2004
  • Panama in 2007-2008
  • Kuwait in 2010-2012 and again in 2015-present
  • Ghana in 2011

Two such suspensions had effects on a nation’s participation in the Olympics. Afghanistan was banned in 1999, causing them to miss the 2000 Olympics – although the Taliban probably couldn’t care less. In 2013, India was also suspended, forcing one of its athletes to compete as an Individual Olympic Athlete during the first week of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. The suspension was lifted during the second week, allowing the remaining two competitors to contest their events under the Indian flag.

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Luger Shiva Keshavan was forced to compete as an independent athlete in Sochi 2014, as his nation’s NOC (India) had been suspended.

Back in 1962, the Indonesian NOC had also been suspended by the IOC, as they had refused to allow athletes from Taiwan and Israel compete in the Asian Games. Angered by the fact that France and the US (which had refused to allow competitors from East Germany) were not suspended, Indonesian President Sukarno created the Games of the New Emerging Forces (GANEFO). Held in 1963, the IOC banned all athletes that had competed at these Games, which caused Indonesia and North Korea to withdraw from the Tokyo Olympics, even if they were allowed to enter athletes who hadn’t contested the GANEFO. North Korea competed again in the second (and last) edition of the GANEFO (1966), which meant they were suspended by the IOC, causing the nation to miss the 1968 Olympics as well.



1920,Germany, Not invited as WWI aggressor nation

1920,Austria, Not invited as WWI aggressor nation

1920,Hungary, Not invited as WWI aggressor nation

1920,Turkey, Not invited as WWI aggressor nation

1924,Germany, Not invited as WWI aggressor nation

1948, Germany, Not invited as WWII aggressor nation (no formal NOC)

1948, Japan, Not invited as WWII aggressor nation

1964, South Africa, Suspended by IOC

1968, North Korea, Suspended by IOC

1968, South Africa, Suspended by IOC

1968, Rhodesia, Could not enter host nation

1972, Rhodesia, Invitation revoked

1976, Rhodesia, Suspended by IOC

1976, Taiwan, Could not enter host nation

1988,Mexico (football), Suspended by IF

2000, Afghanistan, Suspended by IOC

2012, North Korea (gymnastics), Suspended by IF

2014, India, Suspended by IOC

2016, Bulgaria (weightlifting), Suspended by IF


Medals changing hands after the Olympics

The Australian Athletics Federation is looking to overturn Olympic results from 1948 and 1980. It hopes to help Shirley Strickland to a bronze medal in the 1948 200 m and Ian Campbell to a gold in the 1980 triple jump. Although it’s not very likely that they will be successful, medal changes years after the fact are not without precedent in Olympic history. In fact, even if the 1948 result changes 67 years after the fact, it wouldn’t even be a record.

We’ve made a compilation of occasions in Olympic history when the medal results changed at least a month after the end of the Games. All doping related cases have been excluded – they warrant an article of their own.


All Olympic record books list the silver medallist in the 1904 lightweight boxing event as Jack Egan (sometimes spelled Eagan). He lost the final on decision to Harry Spanjer, while Russell Van Horn took third place. But more than a year later, Egan was discovered to have been fighting under an alias. This was not uncommon at the time, as many more wealthy citizens did not want to be associated with sports. Egan’s real name was Frank Floyd, and he came from Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. While this may not seem serious, by the rules of the AAU it was illegal to fight under an assumed name, a so-called ringer. In November 1905, the AAU decided that Egan would be disqualified from all AAU competitions, and he would have to return his prizes. The Atlantic Association that had knowingly accepted Floyd’s application as Egan was also expelled from the AAU.

This late decision to revise the Olympic results in this event has, as far as we know, never been published since the events in 1905, and was only rediscovered in 2008 by Taavi Kalju (a member of the OlyMADMen, just like the authors of this blog). More than 100 years after the fact, Peter Sturholdt can be recognized as a new Olympic medallist – all the more remarkable considering he never won a single fight.


The star athlete of the 1912 Olympics was American Jim Thorpe. He had overwhelmingly won both the pentathlon and the decathlon events.  The King of Sweden gave him his gold medals and told him, “You, sir, are the greatest athlete in the world.”

In early 1913, it was revealed that Thorpe had played minor league baseball in the United States. For this he was retroactively declared a professional by the AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) and the IOC and his records at the 1912 Olympics were declared void. He had to return his gold medals. What is not so well known is that Thorpe should never have been disqualified in the first place.

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An all-round athlete, Thorpe also played professional football, baseball and basketball

Over the years numerous attempts were made to get the IOC to reverse the decision, mostly started by Thorpe’s children. Some efforts succeeded gradually. In 1973, the AAU restored Thorpe’s amateur status for the years 1909-1912. This was followed in 1975 by the United States Olympic Committee making a similar restoration.

In 1982, the Thorpe family, aided by Bob Wheeler, one of Thorpe’s biographers, and his wife, Florence Ridlon, succeeded in their long struggle to have Jim Thorpe’s medals restored by the International Olympic Committee. It was revealed in Sports Illustrated that a key factor in this decision was a discovery by Ridlon, who found a pamphlet in the Library of Congress which gave the rules and regulations for the 1912 Olympic Games. It stated that the statute of limitations for a claim against any Olympic athlete’s eligibility in 1912 had to have been made within 30 days after the awarding of the prizes. The announcement of Thorpe’s professional baseball career occurred in January 1913. Thus it was almost six months after the end of the Olympics and his disqualification was completely unwarranted.

On 27 February 1982, Wheeler and Ridlon founded The Jim Thorpe Foundation, expressly for the purpose of moving to have his medals and honors restored. On 13 October 1982, only eight months after the formation of The Jim Thorpe Foundation, but fully 70 years too late, the IOC Executive Board approved, in a sense, the restoration of Jim Thorpe’s medals, declaring him co-winner with Sweden’s Hugo Wieslander (decathlon) and Norway’s Ferdinand Bie (pentathlon). At a meeting of the IOC Executive Board, this time on 18 January 1983 in Los Angeles, commemorative medals were presented to Bill and Gail Thorpe, two of Thorpe’s children.


The inaugural Olympic ski jumping competition ended with a clean sweep for the Norwegians – or so it seemed.

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Anders Haugen – Olympic medallist after 50 years.

Almost 40 years later, Thoralf Strømstad – a silver medallist in the cross country and Nordic combined at the 1924 Games – contacted Norwegian ski historian Jacob Vaage, claiming that the points from the ski jumping event for Thorleif Haug had been miscalculated, and that his final points should be behind Haugen’s. Vaage checked the case and had to agree with the 77-year-old Strømstad. In 1974 IOC decided to award the bronze medal to Haugen, at that time an elderly gentleman of 86. He was invited to Norway, and at a nice ceremony Haug’s bronze medal from 1924 was handed over to Haugen by Haug’s youngest daughter. Thorleif Haug himself died already in December 1934 from pneumonia at the age of 40. But Haugen was pleased to meet some of his Norwegian competitors from 1924: Narve Bonna, Einar Landvik and also Thoralf Strømstad, the man responsible for justice being made after 40 years.


America’s Ed Sanders created carnage in the heavyweight boxing division in Helsinki as he battered his way to the final with three brutal knockout victories. His opponent in the final, Sweden’s Ingemar Johansson, appeared to be completely intimidated by the American’s reputation and spent most of the fight backpedalling around the ring. When Sanders did get into range Johansson would simply grab hold of his opponent. Eventually an increasingly irate referee grew tired of warning the Swede and disqualified him for “not trying”. This also had the effect of denying Johansson his silver medal and the second step on the podium remained vacant.

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Ingemar Johansson, who waited almost three decades to receive his silver medal.

Johansson did become a household name as a professional when he became the first European to win the World Heavyweight Championship for over 20 years after knocking out Olympic champion Floyd Patterson. In 1982, 30 years after his Olympic embarrassment, Johansson was finally awarded his silver medal after the IOC were persuaded to reverse their decision.

But Johansson was not the only boxer from 1952 to receive his medal late. In 1950, the International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA) had decided to eliminated the bronze medal match, having the losing finalists place an equal third. This was accepted by the IOC, on condition that they would not receive a bronze medal. This is indeed what happened in Helsinki.

But 1970, the president of the Finnish Boxing Association brought up the subject with AIBA, noting the absence of bronze medals in the boxing events to be an injustice. The AIBA President, Rudyard Russell, concurred and contacted the IOC. They received approval for the matter through IOC director Monique Berlioux, although no formal decision was made during an IOC Session. Six of the 20 losing semi-finalists received the medal in a ceremony in Finland on 2-3 April 1970, while the others received theirs in the mail.


The pair’s competition at the Innsbruck figure skating was won by the Soviet husband-wife pair of Lyudmila Belousova and Oleg Protopopov, beating the favored German pair of Marika Kilius and Hans-Jürgen Bäumler. Shortly after the Innsbruck Olympics, it was revealed that Kilius/Bäumler had signed a professional contract prior to the event to perform with Holiday on Ice. This should have disqualified them as professionals, but strangely no definite action was initially taken against them by the IOC or the International Skating Union.

A few weeks later they won the World Championships, defeating Belousova and Protopopov. It was felt that the West German Olympic Committee, lobbying the IOC for the 1972 Olympic bid, wanted to present themselves in the best possible manner and encouraged the German skaters to return their medals. The IOC formed a special sub-committee to examine the case, and the minutes of the Executive Committee note, “A special sub-committee under Ivar Vind had studied the case of the German figure skaters. They had been found ‘non-amateurs’. Willi Daume said that ‘The German NOC will do what is necessary.’

At the 65th IOC session the IOC passed a resolution, which was printed in the Olympic Review, volume 95, page 39, from 15 August 1966 which stated, “We have received the silver medals back, and we will award them to the original third-place finishers. The bronze medals will be awarded to the original fourth-place finishers.” In January 1966, Kilius/Bäumler returned their silver medals to the IOC. Silver medals were awarded to Wilkes and Revell by Canadian IOC Member James Worrall during the 1967 Canadian Figure Skating Championships, while the Josephs received bronze medals from USOC President Tug Wilson at a small private ceremony at the Sheraton Hotel in Chicago, during the 1966 USA Figure Skating Championships. However, no action was ever taken by the ISU, who continued to list Kilius/Bäumler as silver medalists and World Champions in 1964.

However, the controversy did not end there. In 1987, the German NOC rather surreptitiously requested the return of the silver medals to Kilius and Bäumler, which was in keeping with the ISU ruling as well. They asked the IOC to do this, stating that it was known that other skaters had signed similar contracts in that era. At the 1987 IOC Session in Istanbul, the IOC approved this request and the Germans received new silver medals on 5 December 1987, when German NOC president Willi Daume presented replicas of the originals to Kilius and Bäumler on the German television show “Sportstudio”.

Contacted in the late 90s, Debbi Wilkes and Vivian Joseph knew nothing of this, and still thought the German pair had been disqualified. Wilkes and Revell kept their silver medals, in fact, Revell’s medal was buried with him after his death, and the Josephs kept their bronze medals. Thus four silver medals were eventually awarded in this event. The IOC lists did not change the standings for many years, but recognizing that two sets of silver medals have been awarded in this event, now list Kilius/Bäumler and Wilkes/Revell as =2nd and as silver medalists, and have the Josephs in 3rd place with bronze medals. The ISU has never changed the original rankings, continuing to list Kilius/Bäumler 2nd, Wilkes/Revell 3rd, and the Josephs 4th.


In a similar case to the 1952 boxing, American featherweight Al Robinson was disqualified in the final against home fighter Antonio Roldán. In a dubious decision, Robinson was disqualified for head butting. As in 1952, this officially ruled him out of a silver medal. However, US officials protested the decision and Robinson received the medal after returning home. He did not enjoy it for long, as he fell into a coma during training in 1971, and eventually died three years later.


The women’s 100 m hurdles, severely hurt by the Soviet boycott, saw Benita Fitzgerald-Brown edge out Shirley Strong (GBR). Third-place was announced at first as a dead heat between Kim Turner (USA) and France’s Michele Chardonnet, but after reviewing photos of the finish, the judges reversed themselves and gave the bronze medal to Turner. But Chardonnet was not informed of this until she was standing on the infield awaiting the medal ceremony, and she left the field sobbing. The French Athletics Federation protested and 3½ months later the decision was reverted to a dead-heat. Chardonnet received her bronze medal six months after the Olympics ended.

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Kim Turner (right) on her way to a shared bronze.


Canadian Sylvie Fréchette, the 1991 World Champion and World Cup Champion was favored to win the women’s solo synchronized swimming event at the Barcelona Games. She was expected to be challenged by American Kristin Babb-Sprague, who was stronger in the freestyle final routine. Fréchette was expected to open a lead in the technical figures. But in that segment, Brazilian judge Maria de Silveira gave Fréchette an unaccountably low score of 8.7. De Silveira maintained that she had made a mistake and hit the wrong button, and meant to give her a score of 9.7. But the score could not be changed, per the FINA rules. The Canadians appealed the decision after the technical figures, but this was overturned 11-2, the two dissenting votes coming from the Canadian members of the Jury of Appeal. This let Babb-Sprague take the lead after the technical figures, and Fréchette was unable to overcome that lead, as Babb-Sprague seemingly won the gold medal.

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Fréchette hugs Babb-Sprague from the silver medal section of the podium.

But that would not be the end of it. Dick Pound, powerful Canadian IOC Member, led a further appeal to have the results overturned. FINA eventually caved to the pressure and elected to declare Fréchette and Babb-Sprague as co-champions, and awarded Fréchette a gold medal in October 1993.


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Dong Fangxiao, who was only 14 years old at the time of the Sydney Olympics

As a member of the Chinese women’s gymnastics team at the Sydney Olympics, Dong Fangxiao earned a bronze medal. Eight years later, she was entered as an official for the Beijing Olympics. The birth information she used for that application – stating a birth year of 1986 – was different from the one used at the Sydney Games, when she claimed to have been born in 1983.

The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) launched an investigation, as a birth year of 1986 would have made Dong only 14 at the time of the Sydney Olympics, two years under the age limit of 16. The FIG concluded 1986 was Dong’s actual birth year, and disqualified her from the 2000 Games. The IOC went along with that verdict, and handed the bronze medal from the team all-around to the United States.

Ron Clarke (1937-2015)

As the Australian junior mile champion Ron Clarke was selected to carry the Olympic Torch and light the flame at the 1956 Melbourne Opening Ceremony. He later became one of the great distance runners of all-time, especially measured against the clock, but one who struggled to win on the biggest stages. Between 1963-68 Clarke set 17 world records, over distances ranging from 2 miles to the one-hour race. In 1965, he was at his best, setting 11 world records that year alone. His most famous record occurred on 14 July 1965 at Bislett Stadium in Oslo, when Clarke recorded 27:39.4 (27:39.89) for 10,000 metres, breaking his own listed record of 28:15.6, shattering the previous best by over 36 seconds.

ron clarke 1970
Clarke leading the 1970 Commonwealth Games 10000m

At the Commonwealth Games Clarke won four silver medals, in the 1962 3-miles, the 1966 3- and 6-mile races, and the 1970 10,000 metres. Favored for golds at the 1964 Olympics in the distances, he came away only with a bronze in the 1964 10,000 metres. At Mexico City in 1968, Clarke ran himself to exhaustion in the thin air of the Mexican capital, and lay prostrate on the track at the end of the 10,000, after finishing sixth. After the 1968 Olympics, Clarke visited Czechoslovakia to meet his predecessor as the world’s greatest distance runner, Emil Zátopek. When he left for Australia, Zatopek gave him a present to be opened only on the plane, and it was one of his gold medals, with a note saying, “Because you deserve it.”

Ron Clarke on 50th anniversary of Melbourne Olympics

Clarke later became mayor of Gold Coast, Queensland in 2004, serving until 2012, when he resigned to run in the Queensland state elections, but he was badly beaten in that election. Clarke was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1966. In 2013 he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) on the Queens Birthday Honours List. Clarke was elected to the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1985.

Personal Bests\: 5000 – 13:16.6 (1966); 10000 – 27:39.89 (1965); Mar – 2-20:26 (1964).

Is Caitlyn Jenner the first transgender Olympian?

Appearing on the cover of Vanity Fair last week, Caitlyn Jenner revealed her new identity and  name to the world. She was previously known as Bruce Jenner, and was the 1976 Olympic decathlon champion. Probably the most famous transgender worldwide, Jenner’s definitely the most famous transgender Olympian. But is she also the first?

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Jenner after winning Olympic decathlon gold in 1976.

The answer is, as you might expect on this site, no. As far as we know, Jenner is the second transgender Olympian, the first one being Balian Buschbaum, who announced his gender reassignment surgery in 2008. Under the name Yvonne, Buschbaum had competed in the women’s pole vault at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. The reigning European Junior Champion, she placed a credible sixth.

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Buschbaum after winning a medal at the 2002 European Championships

Jenner and Buschbaum are not the only transgender athletes in history, of course. A few famous examples:

  • In the 1930s, Czechoslovakian middle distance runner Zdena Koubková, winner of the 800m at the 1934 Women’s World Games, underwent surgery to become Zdeněk Koubek.
  • In 1979, tennis player Renée Richards reached the third round of the US Open ladies’ singles, and semi-finals in mixed doubles. She had been born as Richard Raskind, and had competed in the men’s tournament in the 1950s. Richards had to go through a long legal battle before being allowed to play, but she achieved a landmark victory for transgender rights in sports.
  • 1986 European shot put champion Heidi Krieger (DDR) became Andreas in 1997, although this was heavily influenced by the immense doses of anabolic steroids that Krieger had received from the DDR doping program as an athlete.

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Andreas Krieger, formerly known as shot putter Heidi Krieger.

Both Jenner and Buschbaum only underwent gender reassignment after their Olympic appearances. To our best knowledge, no Olympians have competed after transgender surgery.  It may only be a matter of time before transgender athletes do compete, as transgender athletes are appearing in several sports, such as cyclists Natalie van Gogh (Netherlands) and Michelle Dumaresq (Canada). However, their involvement in sport is still controversial. Especially in the case of men becoming women, many perceive this as an unfair competitive advantage. While transgenders might have some physical advantages (such as a greater height), their hormone treatments actually puts them at a disadvantage compared to their competitors.

A glimpse of the expected controversy of transgenders competing in the Olympics might be seen by looking at intersexual athletes. Often confused with transgenders, intersexuals have both male and female characteristics from birth. Some, but not all  also decide to undergo surgery to become either a man or a woman. The history of intersexuals in the Olympics has been troublesome.

Polish sprinter Stanisława Walasiewicz (also known as Stella Walsh), who won the 100 m at the 1932 Olympics, had on several occasions been accused of being a man. Upon her death, it was revealed she was a gynandromorph, implying normal external sexual characteristics, but mixed internal sexual organs. In many sources, however, this is (still) simplified to her being a man.

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1932 sprint champion Walasiewicz and 1936 champion Stephens.

A contemporary of Walasiewciz, German high jumper Dora Ratjen, fourth at the 1936 Olympics, was “exposed” as a man after winning the 1938 European Championships. Ratjen was, in fact, intersexual, and had been raised as a girl. Ratjen did officially register as a man subsequently, under the name of Heinz.

Due to suspicions that some (Eastern European) female athletes competing in the 1950s and 1960s were in fact men, the IOC and other sports federations introduced so- called “sex-tests”.  Polish sprinter Ewa Kłobukowska, Olympic relay champion in 1964, was banned from sports in 1967 after failing the original IOC gender test (see below).  Kłobukowska would have passed later versions of the test, and to prove her womanhood, she gave birth to a son in 1968.

Another noted victim of the sex tests was 1966 giant slalom champion Erika Schinegger. Prior to the Grenoble Winter Olympics, she failed a sex test due to being intersexual, and was not allowed to compete. Schinegger later officially became a man, Erik Schinegger.

In the 1990s, prompted among others by lawsuits by Spanish hurdler Maria José Martínez-Patiño, most sports governing bodies abandoned the tests.

The whole concept of gender identity is a difficult one, both in sports and scientifically and psychologically in society, and in sports it has a long history. In the 1960s, concern about the problem of men posing as women to gain a competitive advantage led to the introduction of gender verification by the IOC, at the time called sex testing. Several female track & field athletes were then suspected of being genetically male.

From 1968-88, all women wishing to compete in the Olympics were required to undergo sex testing, with one exception, that being Princess Anne of Great Britain, who competed in the 1976 Olympics in the equestrian events. Testing was initially done by obtaining a buccal smear, or a scraping of the cells of the inner wall of the mouth. The cells were examined for the presence of a Barr body, which occurs almost exclusively in females. Females are genetically labeled as XX, while men are labeled as XY, those being the classifications of the respective sex chromosomes. The second X chromosome possessed by women contains a structure termed the Barr body.

Though some men did attempt to breach the rules and compete as women, the entire subject of mixed sexual characteristics is a highly complex and emotional one. A number of people with mixed sexual identity may have elected to compete as women for psychological reasons. In addition, doctors typically label babies with indeterminate genitalia as women. And in certain cases of mixed sex classification, some people who would be considered women lack a Barr body, and would thus have been disqualified.

Because of these problems, the test was later changed and the buccal smear no longer used. Women were then cleared for international competition by doctors after simply undergoing a physical examination. In the late 1980s, this method was replaced by a polymerase chain reaction evaluation, looking for the Y-linked SRY gene (sex-determining region Y), and this method was used at both the 1992 and 1996 Olympics

But problems still existed. It was noted that the test failed to exclude all potential impostors, was discriminatory against women with disorders of sexual development, and could be psychologically devastating for a female athlete failing such a test. Thus, during the 1996 IOC World Conference on Women and Health, the IOC passed a resolution “to discontinue the current process of gender verification during the Olympic Games.” The IOC Athletes’ Commission recommended to the IOC Executive Board in January 1999 that gender identification should be eliminated, and this decision was ratified by the IOC Executive Board in June 1999.

However, the IOC Medical Commission addressed the issue of sex reassignment in 2003-2004. Their recommendations were approved by the IOC Executive Board in May 2004. The conclusions of this study were: 1) individuals undergoing sex reassignment of male to female before puberty should be regarded as girls and women (female); 2) individuals undergoing sex reassignment of female to male before puberty should be regarded as boys and men (male); 3) individuals undergoing sex reassignment from male to female after puberty (and vice versa) be eligible for participation in female or male competitions, respectively, under the following conditions: 3a) surgical anatomical changes have been completed, including external genitalia changes and gonadectomy; 3b) legal recognition of the assigned sex has been conferred by the appropriate official authorities; 3c) hormonal therapy appropriate for the assigned sex has been administered in a verifiable manner and for a sufficient length of time to minimize gender-related advantages in sport competitions; 3d) eligibility should begin no sooner than two years after gonadectomy; and 4) evaluation will occur on a confidential case-by-case basis.

The entire subject is very difficult, in many ways. Interestingly, Renée Richards, described above as playing on the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) tour after changing to female gender, has come to believe that the IOC ruling is incorrect, and that men changing to women should not be allowed to compete at the highest levels of sport, because they could have an advantage. Of note, Richards is a medical doctor and likely understands all aspects of this discussion far better than anyone. See her interview and discussion on the topic here.

All these multiple administrative decisions paved the way for Brazilian judoka Edinanci Silva to compete in the Olympics from 1996 through 2008. Born intersexual, she underwent surgery to become a woman.

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Edinanci da Silva after winning at the 2007 Pan American Games.

But the abolition of gender testing did not kill all controversy. In 2009, South African Castor Semenya won the women’s 800 m at the athletics World Championships. There were wild speculations about her being a man and/or having a genetic disorder. The IAAF responded non-tactfully and with a re-instated gender test, but her results were allowed to stand. Semenya went on to carry the South African flag at the opening of the 2012 Olympics, and won a silver medal in the event.

Let’s hope that Caitlyn Jenner’s public transition will help future transgenders and intersexuals in being accepted as regular competitors.

Bill Stevenson

Military hero, Rhodes Scholar, Gold Medalist, US Ambassador



Full Name,William Edwards “Bill” Stevenson

Used Name,Bill Stevenson

Born,25 October 1900; Chicago (IL) (USA)

Died,2 April 1985; Fort Myers (FL) (USA)

Measurements,183 cm / 77 kg

Affiliations,New York Athletic Club




1924 Summer,Athletics,4 × 400 metres Relay,1,Gold


After leaving Phillips Andover Academy, Bill Stevenson served in the Marine Corps, winning the Bronze Star, and then entered Princeton in 1920. The following year he was ranked as the top quarter-miler in America and won the AAU 440y in 48.6, which proved to be the best time of his career. Later in the season he beat the reigning Olympic champion, Bevil Rudd, in the dual meet between Princeton/Cornell and Oxford/ Cambridge.

In 1923, Stevenson went to Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship and placed second in the match against Cambridge before winning the British title. In the Olympic year he had a poor start to the season, finishing only third in the match against Cambridge and in the British championships, but he fully justified his selection for the Olympic relay team by turning a 2-meter deficit into a 5-meter advantage on the second leg. In 1925, his last year at Oxford, Stevenson finally won the quarter-mile against Cambridge and he closed his career back on American tracks with victories for the combined Oxford/Cambridge team against teams from Harvard/ Yale and Princeton/Cornell.

Bill Stevenson, who also represented Oxford at lacrosse, was admitted as a barrister-at-law in England in 1925 and in 1927 he became a member of the New York Bar. He eventually became a partner in the law firm of Deboise, Stevenson, Plimpton & Tage, and from 1946 until 1959 he served as president of Oberlin College. He also held numerous civic and government posts, the most distinguished of these being his appointment as U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines from 1961 to 1964.

Personal Best: 400 – 48.3y (1921).