Pinki Pramanik burst onto the scene with her performances at the South Asian Games in 2006, which she ended with three gold medals.
The glittering performance in the 400m, 4x400m and 800m racwas followed up by another gold— this time at the Asian Games in Doha the same year. She also bagged a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.
Cut to the present, and all the controversy surrounding her gender. Every issue from privacy to treating one as a woman until proven otherwise has been stirred.
But as Pinki continues to maintain her innocence and the fact that she has been framed, it must be remembered that she isn’t the only athlete to go through a gender controversy. These are a few other athletes who found themselves in the middle of the gender storm.
Santhi is also a former medalist at the Asian Games in 2006. She won a silver in the women’s 800m race— an achievement which was stripped, when a gender test indicated that she did not possess the sexual characteristics of a woman.
As a Guardian report suggests, the likely cause of her failing the test could be an Androgen insensitivity syndrome. This leads to a female body without female internal sex organs. Santhi’s public humiliation led to her unsuccessfully attempting suicide in September 2007. She has since then turned to coaching.
This is probably the most high-profile gender trap case in the world. At just 18, Semenya won gold in the 800m race at the 2009 World Championships.
International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) ruled against compulsory sex screening in 1992, but it still maintains the right to test someone if they feel suspicious. Semanya’s results were made public and she couldn’t compete internationally till July 2010. This provoked a negative reaction from the sporting world, which was clearly flustered at the way the case was treated.
The federation explained that they conducted tests to determine whether Semanya had a medical condition which was in turn giving her an advantage on the track. The IAAF later admitted that the whole issue could have been handled better.
The IAAF cleared her and since then, Caster has returned to competing and won the silver medal in 800m at the 2011 World Championships.
This may go back a little too much in time, but stands out as a unique case. Ratjen entered the 1936 Berlin Olympics in women’s high jump and came fourth. Dorothy Tyler, the British entry who won silver that year, has been quoted: ”You could tell by the voice and the build. But ‘she’ was far from the only athlete. You could tell because they would always go into the toilet to get changed. We’d go and stand on the seat of the next-door cubicle or look under the door to see if we could catch them.”
After Ratjen broke her record, Tyler immediately informed officials that Ratjen was actually a man— which turned out to be true. The record was returned to Tyler and Dora Ratjen actually turned out to be Hermann Ratjen of the Hitler Youth. Hermann later said that the Nazis had forced him to enter the games as a woman.
Each case is different when it comes to gender testing in sport. Renee Richards was born Richard Raskind, but underwent a sex change in 1975. Being a fine tennis player all her life, Renee was at first barred from entering the US Open in 1976 in the women’s category unless she submitted to tests. Renee refused, won the case in court and received her right to play.
In her singles career, she was ranked as high as 20th and also reached the doubles final in 1977 at the US Open.
What is more remarkable is that she coached Martina Navratilova to two Wimbledon titles later on.