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How Dutee Chand overcame the clouds of hyperandrogenism to become India's most successful sprinter?

Dutee Chand at the 2018 Asian Games
Dutee Chand at the 2018 Asian Games
ANALYST

There are very few Indian track and field athletes who have made their presence felt on the world stage like Dutee Chand has. Dutee Chand is one of the poster girls of Indian athletics. She has represented India at the Olympics, World Championships, Asian Games, and Asian Championships over the years.

Dutee Chand has won quite a few medals at the Asian level and is arguably the best sprinter India has produced since P.T. Usha.

However, it is not these accolades that make Dutee Chand the star she is. Her legendary status was established when she braved the hyperandrogenism controversy that was imposed on her in 2014 with a lot of grit and determination.

Dutee Chand at 2016 IAAF World Indoor Championships
Dutee Chand at 2016 IAAF World Indoor Championships

Early success in Dutee Chand's career

Dutee Chand was born into a very humble family of weavers on 3rd February 1996 in the Jajpur district of Odisha. Dutee's talent was spotted very early and she got enrolled in the government sports facility at the age of 10.

At the age of 16, Dutee became Asia's 4th fastest U18 athlete in 100m when she clocked 11.80 seconds in her qualifying heat at the U18 National Championships. She clocked a personal best time of 11.62 seconds in the qualifying heat of the 2013 World Youth Championships at Donetsk.

Dutee Chand rose among the ranks in the 200m events as well. She won a bronze medal at the 2013 Asian (Senior) Athletics Championships in Pune in the 200m event for women as a 17-year-old. 2013 saw Dutee Chand make a smooth transition from junior to senior level.

All the pundits of athletics in India were unanimous in their opinion that Dutee could be the next big thing in world athletics.

The hyperandrogenism controversy in 2014

Dutee Chand started 2014 with a bang as she won the 200m and 4*400m relay gold medals at the Asian Junior Athletics Championships in Taipei.

However, just before the 2014 Commonwealth Games, the Athletics Federation of India tested her for hyperandrogenism. A failed test meant Dutee was banned from taking part in any female competition in the future.

The snub meant that the 18-year-old Dutee Chand was left high and dry looking towards a dark future. Her privacy and human rights were violated, but the rules back then were such that, if any female athlete with testosterone levels higher than a particular limit, she was banned from the competition with immediate effect.

However, Dutee didn't give up. She received financial support from the Sports Ministry of India and lodged a case in the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) against the AFI and the international body, IAAF, in September 2014.

After almost 10 months of trial, CAS in July 2015 ruled out the notion that higher testosterone levels could enhance an athlete's performance. It was a victory for Dutee Chand as her ban was lifted by the CAS and she could compete again.

However, in their ruling, CAS gave the IAAF a couple of years to come up with evidence to prove that higher testosterone levels among these athletes enhance their performance.

Return to the track for Dutee Chand

It would have taken a monumental effort from Dutee to return to the track after the way she was victimized for something that she had no control over. She made a brilliant comeback at the National Games of India in February 2015 as she won a gold medal in the 100m event for women.

After receiving the verdict in her favour, she started to focus completely on achieving the Olympic qualification mark of 11.32 seconds for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Her hard work paid off in 2016 when she achieved the mark with a national record time of 11.24 seconds at the XXVI International Meeting G Kosanov Memorial in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

However, at the Olympics, Dutee clocked a subpar 11.69 seconds to finish 7th in her heat to crash out. In 2017, her performances were not up to the mark again, as her case getting reopened at the Court of Arbitration for Sport would have been in the back of her mind.

The new rules set by the IAAF after the reopening of the case were that the athletes with hyperandrogenism can get an undue advantage over distances between 400m and one mile and thus those athletes will be restricted from participating in the aforementioned events.

Significant improvement in performances of Dutee Chand after the new rule

With the new rules in place, Dutee could focus more on her sport. She cranked up her game at the 2018 Asian Games and won a couple of silver medals in the 100m and 200m events. She won a gold medal at the 2019 Universiade in Naples, Italy.

She went on to beat her own national record at the Indian Grand Prix 4 event in 2021. Dutee Chand has managed to qualify not just for the 100m event, but also in the 200m event at the Tokyo Olympics 2020 via rankings.

Dutee Chand - The role model

Despite all the hardships, Dutee Chand never lost faith in her abilities. She has been a role model to everyone who dares to dream. Dutee has been quite vocal about the fact that you don't need to change yourself or your body to compete in any event.

In 2018, Dutee Chand offered her support to twice Olympic champion Caster Semenya of South Africa, who herself tested positive for hyperandrogenism. She set a trailblazing example when she admitted to being in a same-sex relationship in 2019.

Although Dutee Chand has seen a lot of ups and downs in her career, she has never been intimidated by any situation that came across her and carried herself with dignity. We hope she gives her best performance on the Olympic stage in Tokyo and further solidifies her legendary status.

Edited by Rohit Mishra
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