Beijing Olympic officials have set up a sex determination lab to test female athletes suspected of being males, Chinese media reported yesterday. Cases will be evaluated based on external appearance and blood samples tested for sex hormones, chromosomes, and genes, according to AFP.
The practice of sex testing began in Eastern Europe in the 1960s. The first time Olympic athletes were tested was at the 1968 Mexico City Games. At the 1996 Games in Atlanta, eight athletes failed the tests but were later cleared, according to China View. A variety of concerns led the International Olympic Committee to stop requiring the tests in 1999. Several female athletes, including runners Santhi Soundarajan of India and Ewar Kobukkowska of Poland have been stripped of their medals after failing sex tests.
Testing is a controversial practice in athletics. Chromosomal abnormalities may cause women to fail the tests, even though they may have no competitive advantages. If women fail initial testing, they are required to have a physiological exam, can be considered to be an invasive privacy violation, according to The New York Times.