Olympic Hopeful Maximila Imali Appeals Track’s Ban on Intersex Athletes


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Maximila Imali, a top Kenyan sprinter, did not lose her eligibility to compete in the Paris Olympics because she cheated. She did not fail a doping test. She broke no rules.

Instead, she is set to miss this year’s Summer Games because she was born with a rare genetic variant that results in naturally elevated levels of testosterone. And last March, track and field’s global governing body ruled that Ms. Imali’s biology gave her an unfair advantage in all events against other women, effectively barring her from international competition.

As a result, Ms. Imali, 27, finds her Olympic dream in peril and her career and her livelihood in limbo.

Unless she is willing to suppress her testosterone levels through medication — which she is not — or she prevails in an appeal she has filed challenging the new regulations, she and other intersex athletes will be barred from competing in all running, jumping and throwing events under the increasingly restrictive and contentious rules that govern women’s track and field.

The legality of those rules has been disputed as they have evolved, and as sports governing bodies attempt to balance fair play in women’s sports with the complicated issues of biological sex and gender identity. But the application of the regulations continues to cause confusion for those affected: rule changes sometimes made with little or no warning; careers forcibly switched abruptly or ended at their peak; and embarrassment, humiliation and fears about personal safety.

“They are destroying our talent, and our dignity,” Ms. Imali said in a recent video interview about her appeal. She said she should not be punished for the way she was born because she had done nothing wrong.

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Olympic Hopeful Maximila Imali Appeals Track’s Ban on Intersex Athletes

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