In the past few weeks, we’ve seen some outrageous actions by the Olympics against Black women, barring several from competing in the Tokyo games as well. The FINA (International Federation that makes the rules for Olympic swimming) was given the chance to approve a swim cap specifically designed for natural Black hair, and they squandered that. The deliberate choice to ban a swim cap made for Black women (which, by the way does not enhance their ability to swim) is nothing less than racial prejudice, and it seems like the Olympics and its federations have no problem exhibiting their racism. This decision highlights decades of racism against Black people in sports like swimming.
Sha’Carri Richardson not Chosen to Represent the U.S in the 4x100m Races
Sha’Carri Richardson took the world by storm last week with her incredible win in the 100m Olympic trials. Shortly after, news broke that her 10.86 second win time was now invalid, and she would be suspended from competing because of a positive marijuana test. Most of us have been thinking things like, “marijuana isn’t a performance-enhancing drug” so what gives? Conversations around Sha’Carri’s suspension have brought to light how the U.S and whiteness have shaped the way people view marijuana, and that institutions like the Olympics will choose whatever narrative benefits them that day.
The prison industrial complex in the U.S and Canada is an example of how western countries, who now profit from the sales of marijuana, also profit off the fact that Black men and women are still serving time for weed related crimes while the substance is now legal in most states and provinces.
Caster Semenya has Also “Failed to Qualify”
Semenya has been in the middle of fighting against World Athletics and their hormone requirement regulations. On July 1st it was ruled that she would not be allowed to compete in the 800m race, and she even tried to qualify for the 5000m race. She was denied both and will not be competing at the Olympics at all. Semenya refuses to take hormone suppressants and should not be forced to by any organization for any reason. This decision comes after a long legal battle against World Athletics, who have shown their true colours in these situations.
ACLU Attorney Chase Strangio explained, “Bodies are often coded as appropriately male or appropriately female through a lens of racism and white supremacy… that lens is used to police some bodies.” He captures exactly what the Olympics and its partners are doing right now. By policing Black women and their bodies they are actively keeping the Olympics anti-Black and upholding this patriarchal and racist system.
Olympics Against Trans Athletes
Cece Telfer, a trans runner has also been banned from competing after not meeting the hormone requirements. Telfer is the first openly trans woman to ever win an NCAA championship, and she hopes to compete in the future. The rules regarding testosterone levels have barred several Black women runners from being able to compete in the upcoming Olympics and has sparked outrage against the Olympics for its blatant racial prejudice against Black women. Trans athletes also must fight for their place in the Olympics, but the World Athletics regulations on the bodies of athletes hinders many from doing so.
It is not the place of these organizations to regulate women’s bodies. It is no one’s place to decide whether someone can compete in a sport based on their natural testosterone levels, and it is outrageous that an organization can try to suggest that these women take hormone suppressing medications just so they can be eligible to compete. Simone Biles has spoken out against the decision to ban Caster Semenya from competing in this year’s Olympic races, as well as many other athletes who have expressed their anger, disappointment and have demanded more from the Olympics and World Athletics when it comes to the way they go about regulating female athletes and their bodies.
Without Sha’Carri Richardson, Caster Semenya, Cece Telfer, Christine Mboma and Beatrice Maslingi the 2020 Olympics will not be the same.