Dutee Chand’s Journey From Fighting Regulations to Asiad Silvers
Dutee Chand has won a silver in women’s 100m sprint and qualified for the 200m event at the Asian Games.
Life has come a full circle for Dutee Chand, at just 23 years.
The memories of her last-minute exclusion from the 2014 Commonwealth Games still fresh in her memory, the sprinter from Odisha has gained form, fitness and the confidence of her Federation, to become the toast of India’s athletics contingent at the Asian Games in Indonesia.
In a span of four days, Dutee found space on the podium twice in Indonesia, winning silver medals in the 100 and 200m events, joining an exclusive list of Indian athletes who have won two individual medals at the Asian Games.
But the journey to the podium was easy by no measure. Here’s a look at how she started her racing career, the hurdles along the way, and attaining glory in Indonesia.
Dutee Chand was born in Gopalpur, Odisha to weaver couple Chakradhar Chand and Akhuji Chand Dutee on 3 February 1996, when their family income stood at a mere Rs 3,000 per month.
One among seven siblings, Dutee enrolled in the KIIT University in 2013 to pursue law. Behind her inspiration to take up running was her elder sister Saraswati Chand, who had also aspired to be an athlete. Saraswati ran for the state and went on to get a job with the Odisha Police in 2005.
An Inspiring Start
In 2012, at the age of 16, Dutee Chand became a national champion in the under-18 category, when she clocked 11.8 seconds in the 100 metre event.
In 2013, she became the first Indian to reach the 100 metre final at the World Youth Championships.
To add to her growing laurels, Chand then was crowned the national champion in 100 metres and 200 metre events. She clocked a record of 11.73 seconds in the final in 100 metre and a career-best of 23.73 seconds in 200 metre at the 2013 National Senior Athletics Championships in Ranchi.
The Hyperandrogenism Controversy
On the eve of her departure to the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, Dutee’s promising career met a roadblock that would eclipse over the next few years of her life.
A naturally-occurring high testosterone level was found in her blood samples, which was in breach of the International Association of Athletics Federation’s (IAAF) guidelines.
Hyperandrogenism is a medical condition characterised by excessive levels of testosterone in the female body.
The decision to stop her from competing was made in compliance with International Olympic Committee (IOC) regulations on “female hyperandrogenism,” designed to address a perceived advantage for female athletes with high androgen levels.
While she was advised to have surgery and get medication, the sprinter decided to challenge the guidelines at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). CAS subsequently asked the IAAF to present scientific evidence that proved enhanced testosterone levels improved performance in hyperandrogenic athletes, within two years. During this tough time, Dutee stayed in a two bedroom house with her family.
Dutee Returns to the Race
As Dutee challenged the IAAF guidelines, she was represented by Canadian law firm Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP, who took up her case pro bono. The case’s ruling found out that there was a lack of evidence in proving the fact that testosterone increased female athletic performance and notified the IAAF that it had two years to provide the evidence.
After almost a year of uncertainty and confusion, in July 2015, a 19-year-old Dutee was cleared by the CAS to participate in domestic and international events.
From Taunts to Praise
Chand made a groundbreaking comeback when she reigned supreme at the 55th National Open Athletic Championship in September 2015.
At the 2016 Asian Indoor Athletics Championships in Doha, Chand set a new national record in 60 metre, clocking 7.28 seconds. She clocked 11.33 seconds in women’s 100m dash to win the gold in the 2016 Federation Cup National Athletics Championships in New Delhi, erasing Rachita Mistry’s 16-year-old national record of 11.38 seconds. However, she missed the Rio Olympics qualification norm of 11.32 seconds by one-hundredth of a second.
Finally on 25 June 2016, Chand broke the very same National record twice in one day at the XVI International G Kosanov Memorial in Almaty, Kazakhstan, thereby qualifying for the Olympic Games.
Coach Nagpuri Ramesh and Pullela Gopi Chand, who provided Chand with a venue to train, have played a major role in her success.
Setback at Rio Olympics
At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Dutee became the third ever Indian woman to participate in a 100m event. However, she did not manage to go beyond the heat stages and clocked her sprint at 11.69 seconds.
After the Rio Olympics, Dutee clinched two bronze medals at the 2017 Asian Athletics Championships – one in the Women's 100 metres, another in the Women's 4×100 m relay.
New CAS Ruling
With cases of female hyperandrogenism like Dutee’s and South Africa's Caster Semenya’s, the IAAF came out with new rules for female athletes with high natural testosterone levels. The new rules said that the IAAF will limit entry for all international events from 400 meters through the mile to women with testosterone levels below a specific level.
The new rules also said Women with elevated testosterone must reduce their level for "six months (e.g., by use of hormonal contraceptives)" before being eligible to run, and maintain that lowered level.
2018: Life Comes a Full Circle
Competing at events – international and domestic – for the last two years, Dutee emerged as the undisputed numero uno athlete in India in the 100 metre stretch. However, a stringent selection policy of the Athletics Federation of India meant she was disallowed from competing at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, despite her timings qualifying her to participate in Australia.
But there isn’t a challenge Dutee hasn’t embraced. She took the Commonwealth Games fiasco in her stride to record her fastest timing in two years, at the Inter-State National Athletics Meet in June this year.
Her 11.29 seconds record was enough to get her selected for the Asian Games, and after four years of being shunted out of selections, Dutee marched proudly at the opening ceremony of the Asian Games in Indonesia.
Few days later, she stood on the podium of the Asian Games twice, once for the women’s 100m sprint and the other for the 200m event, winning silver medals in both events.
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