“I felt so scared. I didn’t know that I was going to be cut open.”
Annet Negesa is a three-time national champion and took home a gold medal at the 2011 All-Africa Games. Such was her promise at the time that the Uganda Athletics Federation named her athlete of the year.
Negesa was a confident Olympic hopeful and just finished training in Kampala, Uganda, in 2012 when she got a call from a World Athletics doctor. The physician, Dr. Stéphane Bermon, told her that her natural testosterone levels were too high for competition and she would not be going to the London Olympics.
“I went back into the house and started crying,” she told the New York Times.
Her testosterone levels were not a result of illegal drug activity but a product of her status as an intersex athlete.
She identifies as female and was born with external female and internal male genitalia, producing levels of testosterone that only men typically produce. Governing officials believed the testosterone levels gave her an unfair advantage over most women in the sport.
Women typically have natural testosterone levels of 0.12 to 1.79 nanomoles per liter, where as male levels range from 7.7 to 29.4 nanomoles, World Athletics says.
Bermon told her she needed to undergo a surgery to remove her internal genitalia if she wanted to compete.
“I love my sport so much, that’s why I decided to go for the surgery,” she said in a recent interview.
But World Athletics are singing a different tune. The organization released a statement claiming that it does “not advise, nor has it ever advised, an athlete on a preferred treatment route.”
“Contrary to the athlete’s interview in the ARD documentary, Dr. Bermon has never met the athlete in question and was not at either the consultation in Nice nor the surgery she speaks of in Uganda. We have made efforts to reach the athlete, through the Ugandan Athletics Federation, to understand why these false statements have been made but have so far been unable to reach her,” the statement further read.
Negesa said she was told that it would be a simple procedure, but was shocked by its invasiveness.
“I felt so scared. I didn’t know that I was going to be cut open,” she said.
Now 27 years old, Negesa hasn’t returned to the sport since the surgery and suffers from depression and joint pain.
“Now I see my body as different, very, very different,” she said. “I don’t know how to talk about it.”
Negesa was granted asylum in Germany after she publicly revealed herself as intersex. LGBTQI+ people face great persecution in Uganda, sometimes at the encouragement of political and religious leaders. She believes that returning home would ultimately lead to imprisonment or death.
She dreams of one day returning to her sport and to international competition but recognizes that her current priority is holding World Athletics accountable.
“I need to take them to court for violating my human rights,” she said.