Captain of the Zambia women’s national team, Barbra Banda, has been ruled ineligible for the African Women’s Cup of Nations (AWCON) after ‘gender verification’ tests.
As per the Confederation of African Football (CAF) requirements, “all the players had to undergo gender verification, and unfortunately, she did not meet the criteria set by CAF,” explained the president of the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ), Andrew Kamanga in an interview with BBC Sport Africa.
Banda is one of four players who did not make Zambia’s final AWCON player list after refusing to undergo hormone suppression treatment. According to an ESPN report, her testosterone levels were said to be above CAF’s limit for the tournament.
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“I think the CAF regulations are a lot more stringent [than Olympic regulations], and they put too much stress on testosterone levels,” said Sydney Mungala, the FAZ’s communications director. Speaking to ESPN, he added that efforts are now “directed towards changing this regulation in the long-term, but not necessarily for this competition. The opportunity [for 2022] has been lost now.”
Kamanga is currently in Morocco – where the tournament is taking place, reportedly working towards a long-term solution in the matter.
Banda burst onto the international stage by being the first soccer player – male or female, to record back-to-back hat tricks against the Netherlands and China at the 2020 Summer Olympics, held in Tokyo.
This was also Zambia’s first appearance in women’s soccer at the World Cup or the Olympics.
The Zambian football forward is not the first African female athlete to have her career affected by said testosterone rules.
Last year, two Namibian teenagers – Christine Mboma and Beatrice Masilingi – were barred from running in the 400 meters at the Tokyo Olympics because of high natural testosterone levels.
And closer to home, South Africa’s Olympic champion runner, Caster Semenya is perhaps the most famous case of testosterone rules affecting a sporting career.
The two-time Olympic gold medalist in the 800m is currently unable to compete across a number of distances due to the World Athletics regulations for athletes with differences of sex development.
In May, detailing her experience to HBO Real Sports, Semenya said she was forced to take the testosterone-reducing medication in order to compete.
“It made me sick, made me gain weight, panic attacks, I don’t know if I was ever going to have a heart attack,” said the 31-year-old.
Caster Semenya on @RealSportsHBO this week. On when she took testosterone-suppressing medication for eligibility: "I didn't know if I was having a heart attack. It's like stabbing yourself with a knife every day, but I had no choice." pic.twitter.com/QzGMieyCqD
— Nick Zaccardi (@nzaccardi) May 23, 2022
Semenya has battled against these regulations for over a decade.
“It’s like stabbing yourself with a knife every day. But I had no choice. I’m 18, I want to run, I want to make it to the Olympics, that’s the only option for me,” continued Semenya.