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The Algerian Boxer Imane Khelif is Not Transsexual

Ouissal Harize Ouissal Harize
3rd August 2023
The Algerian Boxer Imane Khelif is Not Transsexual
Imane Khelif is a cisgender woman (Twitter)

The Claim

In the women's boxing final held at the pan-Arab games in Algeria, the transsexual boxer Imane Khelif defeated Moroccan Umaima Belahbib.

Emerging story

Spanish social media users recently widely circulated a claim purporting that the Algerian boxer Imane Khelif is transsexual.

A supporting image within the article body
A supporting image within the article body

Misbar’s Analysis

Misbar investigated the circulating claim and found it to be fake. The boxer Imane Khelif is a cisgender woman. 

Imane Khelif has participated in many international competitions as a cisgender woman, including the Olympics as can be seen below.

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Photo Description : Imane Khelif’s Olympics Profile.

Imane Khelif Disqualified From the Women's World Championships in New Delhi

In March 2023, a heated debate on athlete rights was triggered by Imane Khelif’s disqualification from from the Women's World Championships in New Delhi hours before her gold medal bout. According to several reports, the athlete was disqualified because of her elevated Testosterone levels. 

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Photo Description: An article reporting Imane Khelif’s disqualification. 

The disqualification caused a wave of ongoing misinformation about the athlete’s gender. 

Causes of high Testosterone in Women

Various diseases can cause hormonal changes in women. The most common causes of high testosterone levels in women are hirsutism, polycystic ovary syndrome, and congenital adrenal hyperplasia.

Testosterone levels can be elevated naturally and do not prove transsexuality

Hormone Levels for Female Athletes

Some sports governing bodies have implemented policies that require female athletes to have testosterone levels below a certain threshold to compete in women's events. This has led to accusations of discrimination, as it disproportionately affects women with naturally occurring higher levels of testosterone, a condition known as hyperandrogenism. 

Those who support the regulations argue that testosterone is linked to physical attributes such as muscle mass and strength, giving athletes with higher levels an unfair advantage. They claim that the rules are designed to ensure a level playing field.  Athletes affected by these regulations may be required to undergo medical interventions such as hormone therapy in order to comply with the regulations. These interventions can have serious physical and psychological effects. 

These regulations have repeatedly raised questions about how sex and gender are defined in sport. In some cases, athletes have been subjected to humiliating and invasive sex verification tests to determine their eligibility. These policies can challenge the gender identity of the athletes involved and contribute to a stigmatizing environment. 

The issue raises profound ethical questions. Is it fair to exclude women who naturally have higher testosterone levels? How should sex and gender be defined and regulated in sport? 

There is still ongoing debate within the scientific community about how much of an advantage testosterone provides, and whether a strict hormonal level is a valid or fair measure of eligibility. Some researchers argue that the relationship between testosterone and athletic performance is not as clear-cut as sometimes portrayed.

Nevertheless, according to research findings presented at the 2019 European Society of Endocrinology annual meeting, “Top female athletes are more likely to have higher testosterone levels and mild disorders, as well as more severe and rarer conditions that increase testosterone levels. These findings suggest that higher testosterone levels can enhance physical performance in women, to levels more comparable to male physiology.”

The questions is therefore thorny and problematic.

Arab Sports Games: Imane Khelif Wins Gold Medal

The Algerian boxer Khelif Imane (-66 kg) won a gold medal after beating her Moroccan opponeny Belahbib Oumayma in the final, at the Arab Sports Games (July 5-15) held at the Military Team Training Centre of Ben Aknoun, Algiers.

The medal was considered as a triumphant return for Khelif. 

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