This article in today’s Observer annoys me in many ways. There’s the casual assumption that an intersex person who has been raised as a girl is “really” a man because some medical test says so. There’s the suggestion that Caster Semenya is only being allowed to compete (and rightly so in the eyes of the author) because she’s being forced to undergo some sort of treatment to render her less “male”. But eventually it goes way beyond this.
The main point that the author is making in this article is that some people have genetic advantages over others when it comes to sport, and that this is unfair and should not be allowed. At first sight that sounds crazy. Should we have labelled Joel Garner a “cheat” because he was taller than the average fast bowler? Then again, people have labelled Muralitharan a cheat because of his abnormal physiology.
The reason this is important, and relevant to science fiction, however, is that we are rapidly approaching the point where it will be possible to modify human embryos to add genes that are believed to lead to sporting success.
Sooner or later I’m sure there will be a version of athletics that is more akin to Formula 1, where success is very much a factor of how much effort and investment you put into the design of your equipment.