Having lived her life in poverty, the one thing that kept Shanthi Soundarajan going was running. “I loved running so much that I won 12 international medals from my country,” she says in a video profile.
But when she was asked to undergo a ‘gender test’ after her victory in the 2006 Asian Games in Doha, everything changed. The star athlete was diagnosed with hyperandrogenism, a condition characterized by excess circulation of testosterone in the female body.
As a result, she was disqualified, deemed unfit to compete with other women. She was stripped of the silver she won at the Doha games.
Thappad, an online debate and discussion platform, has started a petition asking Shanthi’s name to be reinstated into the official record of races she won and for the government to give her a permanent job to help her rebuild her life.
Accompanying the petition is an appeal by Shanthi herself. In this video, Shanthi tells her poignant story all over again, a decade later.
“I did not conform to the world’s definition of being a woman. My gender was debated on national television. I felt naked and humiliated in front of the world,” Shanthi says in the video.
Stripped of her sports career, Shanthi went into depression and even tried to commit suicide. Later however, she took to training younger athletes, using the Rs 15 lakh given her by the Tamil Nadu government for her achievements. None of her 68 students are charged for the training.
In more recent cases, Dutee Chand was also made to undergo a gender test and was diagnosed with hyperandrogenism in 2014. The 20-year-old however, contested her disqualification in the Court of Arbitration of Sport in 2015 and won. Her victory has given hope to Shanthi as well.
“I am really happy for Dutee. I hope I too will get justice and my medals will be returned. I am eager to compete in athletic events again,” Shanthi told Pon Vasanth Arunachalam of The New Indian Express.
The petition for Shanthi can be accessed here.