Christine Mboma and Beatrice Masilingi, two 18-year-old female runners from Namibia, will not be allowed to run in the 400-meter race at the Tokyo Olympics because medical tests concluded that the athletes have high natural testosterone levels, ESPN reported.
While Mboma finished with a time of 48.54 seconds to win a 400-meter race in Poland on Wednesday, which is the seventh-fastest time ever recorded for a woman in the event, Masilingi posted a time of 49.53 seconds in April to record the third fastest time of 2021.
World Athletics, which conducted "medical assessments" on the two runners at their current training camp in Italy, said tests have now shown that both athletes have high natural testosterone levels.
“It is important to understand that both our athletes were not aware of this condition neither did any family member, their coach or the NNOC-CGA [Namibia Olympic Committee] were aware of it,” the Namibia Olympic Committee wrote in a statement.
The latest controversy is similar to the situation involving South Africa's Caster Semenya. As a result of World Athletics' testosterone regulations, Semenya has been barred from taking part in the 800-meter race at the Tokyo Games. Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi and Margaret Wambui of Kenya are also prohibited from participating in the 800-meter run due to testosterone levels.
Five African women who have dedicated their lives to their sport– all not able to compete due to natural testosterone levels. https://t.co/kaHTGsqfJK
— Brooke Thomas (@BrookeOnAir) July 2, 2021
According to LGBTQ Nation, World Athletics enforced the rule in 2019, capping testosterone levels for women’s events over 400 meters but below 1600 meters. The questions about hormone levels surfaced in 2009 when the International Association of Athletics Federations scrutinized Semenya, saying the athlete has a “rare medical condition” which gives her an “unfair advantage.”
Semenya said she took medication from 2010 to 2015 to lower her testosterone levels and the ongoing battle to compete has “destroyed” her mentally and physically. The two-time Olympic champion, who has lost two appeals, is now waiting for a third to be heard as she hopes to compete without scrutiny.
“I am very disappointed by this ruling, but refuse to let World Athletics drug me or stop me from being who I am,” Semenya said last year after she lost her legal battle against the sport’s governing body, as Blavity previously reported. “Excluding female athletes or endangering our health solely because of our natural abilities puts World Athletics on the wrong side of history.”
Mboma and Beatrice Masilingi will now "focus their full attention" on the 200-meter race after being banned from the 400, Namibia's athletics federation said. According to Reuters, Namibia's government issued a statement to speak up for the athletes.
"The Ministry calls upon Athletics Namibia and the Namibia National Olympics committee to engage both the International Association of Athletics Federations (now known as World Athletics) and International Olympics Committee to seek ways that would not exclude any athlete because of natural conditions that are not of their own making," the government stated. "The Ministry calls upon governing bodies to level the playing fields that do not exclude Africans from competing at the international stage."