Since sports is still a male-dominated world, many female athletes, especially those who are in sports considered mainly for men, are suspected of not being real women because of their butch appearance.
Reuters Saudi women athletes train for London 2012
This had led to gender tests for some female athletes, not only in international competitions but even in local ones.
The Telegraph reports that female footballers of Iran would be required to undergo gender tests to prove they are real women amid rumours that some of them are either males who have not completed sex change surgery or are suffering from sexual development disorders.
While Iran, an Islamic nation, has extremely strict rules on sexual morality under its Sharia legal code that bans homosexuality and pre-marital sex, it permits gender change surgery, based on a religious ruling or fatwa made by the late Iranian strongman Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
The medical examiners will show up randomly at the training sessions of teams in Iran's women premier league and indoor league, called footsal. The clubs are mandated to perform medical tests that establish the gender of their players before they could sign them on contracts, said Ahmad Hashemian, head of the Iranian football federation's medical committee.
He said those who underwent complete gender reassignment procedure would be able to join the women's football team. The whole procedure takes up to two years, including hormone therapy for full gender transformation.
As a result of the required gender test, the contracts of seven players had been terminated.
South Korean female footballer Park Eyn-seon's gender had similarly been questioned.
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Similar questions about the gender of women athletes in other sports have also been raised in the past.
One of them is South African runner Caster Semenya, who at age 18, won gold in the 800m World Athletic Championship in Berlin in August 2009 with a time of 1:55:45. Her real gender was questioned because of her muscular physique and she was made to undergo a gender test.
She was not allowed to compete in a South African track and field event that year but was cleared by the international Association of Athletics Federation eventually.
Another athlete whose gender was questioned is Filipina runner Nancy Navalta, who eventually dropped out of competitions because of the controversy caused by her masculine appearance.