Santhi Soundarajan (also spelled Santhi Soundararajan, born April 1981) is an Indian athlete who competes in the middle distance track events. She was stripped of a silver medal won at the 2006 Asian Games after failing a gender verification test, disputing her eligibility to participate in the women's competition. Currently she is working as a daily wager at a brick kiln in Tamil Nadu.
Early life and career
Soundarajan holds the national record for the women’s 3000 metres steeplechase clocking 10:44.65 seconds. At a national meet in Bangalore in July 2005 she won the 800m, 1,500m and 3000m. She won the silver medal in 800 m at the Asian Championships in Incheon, South Korea in 2005.
Asian Games controversy
Soundarajan won a silver medal in the women's 800m race at the 2006 Asian Games held in Doha, Qatar in December 2006 clocking 2 minutes, 3.16 seconds. [dead link] However, she underwent a sex test shortly afterwards, and the results indicated that she "does not possess the sexual characteristics of a woman". Soon after the results of the sex test came out, she was stripped of her silver medal.
While such sex tests are not compulsory for competitors, the International Association of Athletics Federations can request that contenders take such tests at any time, and include intensive evaluation by a gynecologist, a geneticist, an endocrinologist, a psychologist, and an internal medicine specialist. According to her coach, P. Nagarajan, her upbringing in impoverished rural India, where she reportedly only started eating proper meals in 2004, could be a reason behind the test result.
Media articles later reported that Santhi might have been born with an intersexed condition known as Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS). This condition includes the existence of a 'Y' chromosome in phenotypic females (typically only associated with a male genotype) and results in an inability to respond to Androgens. This unresponsiveness leads to a female body without female internal sex organs. Although the body produces testosterone, it does not react to the hormone.
In January 2007, The Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Karunanidhi had awarded Santhi a television set and a cash prize of Rs. 1.5 million for her Doha Games effort in this year, despite the news of Santhi failing a gender test.
In September 2007, Soundarajan was reported to have attempted suicide, reportedly by consuming a veterinary drug at her residence. The attempt was blamed on gender, economic, and sports pressure in India. Two months later, Soundarajan took up coaching, starting a training academy at her home district of Pudukkottai, and became an athletics coach with the regional government. By 2009, her academy had 68 students and her students had won the first and third positions in the Chennai marathon. As per reports Santhi Soundarajan currently works as a daily-wager in a brick kiln and earns Rs 200 per day.
In Popular Media
The Alan Turing Rainbow festival and The Asia's first Genderqueer pride parade by Srishti Madurai during July 2012 educated the college and high school students of Madurai in masses about Santhi Soundarajan and Intersex issues.
A Documentary Y can’t I run? was the complete story of Santhi Soundarajan.
- India strike it rich in track and field events, The Hindu, 9 December 2006
- "Indian athlete fails gender test". BBC News. 18 December 2006. Retrieved 20 August 2009.
- "Indian silver medalist female runner at Asian Games fails gender test". International Herald Tribune. 18 December 2006.
- S. Sen (20 December 2006) "AFI to investigate Santhi case, uneven diet cited as possible reason" The Raw Story
- Saner, Emine (30 July 2008). "The gender trap". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 August 2009.
- "The sad story of Santhi Soundarajan". The Times of India. 9 January 2007. Retrieved 20 August 2009.
- "Sex-test failure attempts suicide". Fox Sports. 6 September 2007. Retrieved 20 August 2009.
- "Santhi turns to coaching after suicide attempt". Taipei Times. 11 June 2009. Retrieved 20 August 2009.
- "Asiad medallist labours at brick kiln". 24 July 2012.
- "Cities / Madurai : Madurai comes out of the closet". The Hindu. 30 July 2012. Retrieved 10 October 2012.