At the time of the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling, Christine Mboma and Beatrice Masilingi were 16 years old and a long way removed from the Olympic radar. Little did the Namibian teenagers know that the Court’s decision would alter the trajectory of their lives two years later.

The Namibian Olympic committee said last month that Mboma and Masilingi were not aware they had high natural testosterone before their tests. That gave them mere weeks to recover emotionally from being barred from their preferred 400 and to take a crash course in how best to run the 200.

While both were clearly in great form based on their 400 times, the speed at which Mboma and Masilingi adapted was eye-opening. Mboma broke the world under-20 record twice in eight hours on Monday and qualified for the Olympic 200 meters final with the second-fastest time. Masilingi wasn’t far behind her teammate, also lowering her personal-best time twice en route to a berth in the Olympic final.

In a star-studded final that included past Olympic medalists and national record holders, neither Mboma nor Masilingi looked remotely out of place. Mboma came off the turn in fifth place but blew past three other sprinters to claim second place and secure Namibia’s first Olympic medal by a female athlete.

Her time of 21.81 would have won gold as recently as 2004 and would have placed no worse than second at any previous Olympics. Masilingi settled for sixth place in 22.28. She once again lowered her personal-best time by more than a tenth of a second.

Beatrice Masilingi of Team Namibia celebrates with her teammate and silver medal winner Christine Mboma after the Women’s 200m Final

The stunning success of Mboma and Masilingi is a reminder why many medical experts don’t see an easy solution to track’s testosterone dilemma. There may not be a quick fix that fosters competitive fairness without stigmatising and marginalizing women with DSDs and elevated testosterone levels.

“It’s fundamentally unresolvable,” Anawald, the Seattle endocrinologist, said. “They’re never going to come up with a way to resolve the tension between competitive equity and inclusivity.”

While Mboma smiled in disbelief after her second-place finish on Tuesday, it’s likely that her success will come with some complications. The women’s 200, for reasons that most experts struggle to explain, has yet to be closed off to athletes with elevated testosterone levels. Could that change if she and Masilingi continue to ascend?

For now, Mboma’s Olympic silver medal was a joyous achievement for herself and her country. The testosterone debate, for at least one day, was on hold.

Read a gushing tweet from Namibia’s biggest newspaper on Tuesday: “Congratulations, you have made your country proud!”

Source: Jeff Eisenberg