IOC Testing for More than Just PEDs

Pat Imig
July 28, 2008

Sunday afternoon, Fourth-Place Medal colleague Nick Friedell linked the AP story regarding gender verification lab testing at the Olympics. As the New York Times reports, this isn't exactly new to Olympic games:

Experts at the lab, located at the Peking Union Medical College Hospital, will evaluate cases based on their external appearance and take blood samples to test hormones, genes and chromosomes, said Prof. Tian Qinjie of the college hospital, according to the Xinhua news agency.

Gender verification tests emerged in the 1960s when Communist countries in Eastern Europe were thought to be using male athletes in women’s competitions. The tests were used at the Olympics for the first time at the 1968 Mexico City Games.

The downside to this testing is that certain chromosomal problems could cause a woman to fail a test, even though such abnormalities would not give her a competitive advantage. At the Atlanta Games in 1996, eight female Olympians initially failed tests but were cleared upon further examinations.

Three years later, the IOC ceased the testing of all female athletes in favor of the current method of picking and choosing individuals called into question. Something tells me this type of 'profiling' will be re-examined in the near future. With potential privacy issues arising when a failed test results in a subsequent physical, the verification panel is walking a fine line.

Now, if the verification testing could somehow extend to suspected federal, criminal activity, society would be the better for it - especially Richard Jewell. His Olympic experience would have been a much quieter one.