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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Debate Surrounding True Gender of Chinese Female Athletes Reignited by IAAF Announcements

The removal of two prominent Chinese female track runners from the IAAF world rankings has reignited the debate surrounding their gender following previous accusations that they were actually men.

Liao Mengxue and Tong Zenghuan first made international news headlines during the 2019 National Athletics Championships, when they won the 4x400m relay race as part of a team representing Hunan Province. However, people didn’t focus on their athletic prowess as much as on their appearance. People didn’t think they looked feminine enough and accused them of being men posing as women to gain an unfair advantage in women’s athletic competitions. Some claimed they had Adam’s apples or that they had too much ‘junk’ in the groin area to be women, but the controversy eventually died out. Until recently anyway, because now the debate has been reignited by Liao and Tong’s exclusion from the new IAAF (International Association of Athletic Federations) world rankings.


“Prominent foreheads, hint of Adam’s apples and a bulge in their crotch. I would say men,” one Weibo user commented on the masculine looks of Liao Mengxue and Tong Zenghuan back in 2019.

“This is the side effect of taking drugs. Their hormone levels will change greatly,” someone else wrote, hinting that the two women had abused performance-enhancing drugs such as anabolic steroids to increase their testosterone levels.

At the time, the Chinese Athletics Association came out and confirmed that both athletes were indeed female, and although that didn’t instantly kill the debate, the topic eventually died out. However, the new IAAF world rankings announcement has reignited the debate once again, with many viewing the two athletes’ exclusion as confirmation of them actually being men.

After competing at the 2019 Doha Championships, Liao Mengxue and Tong Zenghuan reportedly took part in just a few other domestic competitions, which many found to be suspicious. Add in the fact that, back in June, the Chinese Athletics Association notified the athletic centers of all provincial and municipal teams to conduct strict blood testosterone tests on female athletes and the plot thickens. Apparently, athletes who exceed a certain level will not be allowed to participate in national and international competitions.

Some of the two athletes’ critics believe that the new testing standards make it impossible for them to compete in women’s competitions going forward, but then we have opposing opinions like the ones expressed in this Tencent article. The author claims that the controversy around Liao and Tong’s gender is nothing more than a conspiracy theory. It states that Tong has indeed been very low-key after her 2019 successes, but that she may have retired, which is why she is no longer in the IAAF rankings. As for Liao Mengxue, she allegedly married and is now a mother. Still, she apparently does show up in the rankings, only much lower than before, at 527th place.

As part of the reignited debate, a video of Liao Mengxue talking in a low, masculine voice has also resurfaced, fueling rumors that she is actually a man, but so far the official position of the Chinese Athletic Association is that both she and Tong Zenghuan are biological women.


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