New search
download case
  • Overview
  • Teaching Notes
  • Answer Key
  • Comments/Replies

Going for Gold

Sex, Gender, and Competition

Co Authors:

Breanna N. Harris
Biological Sciences
Texas Tech University

Wendy Saltzman
Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology
University of California, Riverside


This case study introduces students to the true story of Caster Semenya, an outstanding female mid-distance runner from South Africa.  Caster won the 800 m race at the 2009 Track and Field World Championships when she was just 18. Since then, she has faced scrutiny about her sex and gender. Due to her high levels of endogenous testosterone, she was banned from running for almost a year by the track and field governing body, the IAAF. In this case study, students use information from news reports and Caster's appearance to determine the possible biological underpinnings likely responsible for her anatomy and physiology.  Students are also asked to consider if using circulating testosterone levels to determine if a female can race is a valid method of exclusion. This case asks students to think about how sex and gender are related, and pushes them to discuss societal implications of labeling both of these constructs as binary when in fact they are much better described as spectra.

  • Compare and contrast sex and gender.
  • Explain how an individual becomes male or female at the levels of the gonads, internal tract, and external genitalia.
  • Describe what happens when sex determination and differentiation follow an atypical pattern (specific to the case of androgen insensitivity syndrome).
  • Match genotype to phenotype at various levels (e.g., gonadal, gametic, hormonal).
  • Use biological data/information to critically analyze a real-world problem (i.e., testosterone levels and competition of female athletes).
Keywords: Disorders of sex development; DSD; sex; gender; testosterone; androgens; AIS; Semenya; sex differentiation; sex determination; female; testicular feminization;
Topical Area: Ethics, Policy issues, Social issues, Social justice issues
Educational Level: Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division
Formats: PDF
Type/Method: Interrupted
Language: English
Subject Headings: Biology (General)   Interdisciplinary Sciences   Medicine (General)   Nursing   Physiology   Science (General)   Sports Science   Developmental Biology  
Date Posted: 6/20/2018
Date Modified: N/A
Copyright: Copyright held by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Please see our usage guidelines, which outline our policy concerning permissible reproduction of this work.

Teaching Notes

Case teaching notes are password-protected and access to them is limited to paid subscribed instructors. To become a paid subscriber, begin the process by registering here.

Teaching notes are intended to help teachers select and adopt a case. They typically include a summary of the case, teaching objectives, information about the intended audience, details about how the case may be taught, and a list of references and resources.

  Download Teaching Notes

Answer Key

Answer keys for the cases in our collection are password-protected and access to them is limited to paid subscribed instructors. To become a paid subscriber, begin the process by registering here.

  Get Answer Key

City State:
security code
Enter Security Code: