She made them see all the colors. In two football matches, in May and June, Clara Cletus Luvanga scored three goals in the first leg against Cameroon’s Indomitable Lionesses U17, before – alas – causing a fight and receiving a red card on the return leg . Enough to disgust her opponents, unable to respond to the physical challenge that the Tanzanian athlete imposed on them.
Eliminated from the World Cup in this under-17 category (which takes place from October 6 to 28 in India) by a team too strong for them, the Cameroonians wore a reserve on bib number 7, worn by this player with a particularly androgynous morphology: on closer inspection, isn’t this tomboy simply a… boy?
What is a “real” woman?
The leaders of the African Confederation of football (CAF) also wanted to know. They welcomed the claim of the defeated, immediately ordered a gender expertise in a “neutral” country, South Africa. Appointment was made at a clinic in Johannesburg. A Cameroonian medical delegation was even invited to attend – without participating. Except that, on the said day, the player did not show up.
When questioned, the CAF then declared that the footballer was allegedly involved in a traffic accident between the airport and the clinic. Truth or subterfuge? The rest of the case raises doubts, especially since, since this missed meeting, the parents of the player no longer want to hear about expertise. We will learn later, a misfortune that never comes alone, that the hot potato has passed from Cairo to Zurich. Which amounts to a first-class burial. The truth will wait.
Cameroonians, they do not let go. In mid-October, they wrote to Fifa to reiterate their request for gender expertise, under a “legitimate suspicion”. As everyone knows, in sports competitions, appearance is often the first clue to cheating. It is she who triggers the examinations of apparent age, and, of course, the gender expertises.
In a cabbage or in a rose?
While waiting to find out whether bib number 7 was born in a cabbage like the boys or rather in a rose, two hypotheses are plausible: if it is established that Tanzania selects boys to beat up its female opponents, then it is guilty of fraud. And no one will talk about it after the inevitable penalty provided by the rules. On the other hand, if the player is indeed a woman in a male-looking body, then we understand the reluctance of sports authorities to follow through with their investigations.
Basketball: fight between Malians at the Women’s World Cup
For thirteen years, the hyperandrogenism of athletes has been at the center of a media, scientific, legal and judicial battle initiated by the South African Caster Semenya, a so-called hyperandrogenic athlete, double gold medalist in the 800 meters at the London Olympics (2012) then to those of Rio (2016), whose body secretes a level of androgen (male hormones mainly represented by testosterone) higher than normal. For most of its competitors, this difference generates an inequality justifying its victories.
Her case led World Athletics (formerly the International Association of Athletics Federations, IAAF) to set a testosterone threshold of 10 nanomoles per liter of blood for athletes competing in the women’s category. In 2018, the IAAF had also enacted a regulation which obliged the athletes concerned to follow a treatment intended to lower their testosterone levels to be admitted to compete in the categories ranging from 400m to 1,000m.
Not accepting it, the South African immediately took legal action and obtained the suspension of the said regulations, which had been drawn up on the basis of a contested scientific study, the Court of Arbitration for Sport arguing “the difficulty of proving a real advantage in hyperandrogenic athletes over the 1500m and 1000m distances”.
To date, there is no definitive truth on the subject. Francine Niyonsaba (Burundi), Margaret Wambui (Kenya) or even Dutee Chand (India) live as victims of the crime of dirty mouth. Instead of sweeping the dust under the rug, Fifa would benefit from clearing up the Clara Cletus Luvanga case and then bringing hyperandrogenic female footballers out of the lawless zone where it them confine.