Swimmer Simon Manuel will be going to the Tokyo Olympics, after competing in the women’s 50-meter freestyle final, and managing health concerns. Twitter photo credit - @swimone

As the world’s best athletes prepare for the Tokyo Olympics, a flood of penalties and criticism is shining attention on how Black women are treated in athletics.

The International Swimming Federation has declined to authorize the use of a swimming hat intended to accommodate natural Black hair during international events in recent weeks.

Two Namibian sprinters were declared unable to participate in a race owing to naturally high testosterone levels. At the same time, a US Olympic hammer thrower was chastised for protesting during the singing of the national anthem.

Experts believe these instances demonstrate how sports rules don’t always include athletes of color or the dehumanization Black women and girls face.

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Simone Manuel of the USA wins the women’s 100-meter freestyle final.EPA

According to Lori L. Martin, a sociology professor at Louisiana State University who examines race and education through a sports lens, policies and processes connected with athletic events, notably the Olympics, are frequently regarded as “race-neutral.”

However, like in the case of swim caps, they may have varied effects on individuals depending on their ethnicity and gender, according to Martin.

Swim Caps With Natural Black Hair Are Not Permitted

The International Swimming Federation (FINA) refused to approve the use of caps designed for swimmers with “thick, curly, and voluminous hair” in international competitions just days after British swimmer Alice Dearing became the first Black woman to qualify to represent Great Britain in the open-water marathon.

According to the BBC, the headwear manufacturer, Soul Cap, was informed that its caps do not “follow the head’s natural shape.”

Soul Cap creators Michael Chapman and Toks Ahmed Salawudeen have previously said that their headgear is critical in fostering ethnic diversity in competitive swimming and that FINA’s rejection will dissuade younger swimmers from participating.

Swimming pools have long been associated with racial inequalities in the United States. Because public pools in the United States were segregated mainly in the 1920s and 1930s, many Black Americans did not learn to swim.

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Alice Dearing, a 22-year-old student at Loughborough University, is one of Great Britain’s top female marathon swimmers.

According to the USA Swimming Foundation, almost 64% of African American children do not learn to swim, while just 40% of White children do.

More inexpensive swim lessons, access to pools for disadvantaged areas, and more excellent representation in competitive swimming have all been advocated for by advocates. Only two of the 26 women on the US Olympic swim team are African-American, including Simone Manuel, the first African-American woman to win an individual gold medal.

Exclusion from Races

Christine Mboma and Beatrice Masilingi are the latest Black women athletes to be declared unable to participate in an Olympic race owing to naturally high testosterone levels.

According to the Namibia National Olympic Committee and Commonwealth Games Association, the 18-year-old Namibian sprinters were tested during a medical examination. Their levels surpassed the limit set by a World Athletics guideline on Athletes with Differences of Sex Development (DSD) (NNOC-CGA).

Female athletes must have blood testosterone levels of less than 5 nmol/L (nanomoles per liter) to participate in some women’s events, including the 400m. Accommodate African-American Hair

According to the committee, the athletes, their families, coaches, and the Namibian National Olympic Committee were unaware of their condition before testing. Mboma and Masilingi will be eligible to participate in the 100-meter and 200-meter dashes.

Other Black women athletes have been hampered by the same restriction, including Olympic champion Caster Semenya and CeCe Telfer, a Black transgender woman denied entry to the US Olympic Trials for the women’s 400-meter hurdles last month.

After World Athletics decided in 2018 that women with high natural testosterone levels must take medicine to lower them to participate in middle-distance events, Semenya, a 30-year-old South African, has been barred from participating in any race from 400m to a mile. Accommodate African-American Hair

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The International Swimming Federation (FINA) is readdressing its denial of Soul Cap for use in competition swimming,

The two-time Olympic 800m winner is hyperandrogenic, which means her levels of the male sex hormone are naturally high. Semenya has declined to take any testosterone-lowering medicine and has appealed the World Athletics decision. Accommodate African-American Hair

She has filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights, but the procedure will take months to complete.

According to Martin, a sociologist, such rules demonstrate how certain people’s notions about femininity continue to exclude certain groups of people and the need for more Black people in sports leadership.

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