A week after Clarín published her story, the Ugandan intersex athlete agreed to chat from Berlin about the hell she lived through that cut her career short. And dreams of getting back on the slopes.
In 2012 he was a promising young man in African athletics and he had the suitcases armed to travel to London and play his first Olympic Games. A couple of weeks before, the International Federation (the former IAAF, since 2019 called World Athletics) informed him that he was not qualified to compete due to his high levels of testosterone and gave him a magic solution: an operation. Months later he underwent a gonadectomy that not only took her out of the circuit and out of college but cut her only income.
Eight years later, the Ugandan woman knows her story. He knows what they did to him, although he still doesn’t understand why. She pursues one goal: that no other athlete suffers the same as her, that over $ 900 for that monstrous surgery. This is how he tells Clarion a week after his story was published.
“This is discrimination and racism. My advice to young athletes is always to consult experts, lawyers, and other affected athletes and make an informed decision. At that time I felt alone and I felt compelled to take medical measures. I don’t want that to happen to any other young athlete”Says the intersex athlete from Berlin, where he has resided since last year because in Uganda the LGBTI community is persecuted and imprisoned.
Negesa was 19 years old when on September 1, 2011 she contested the 800-meter classification of the Daegu World Championship, the same event that would later be won by the South African Caster Semenya. Before competing in his first Senior World Cup, they took him out 16 blood samples. “I thought it was part of the norm. That was probably when the IAAF introduced the biological passport. But I found out about that recently, ”he recalls.
The Ugandan refers to what happened in December 2010, when the International Athletics Federation announced an “ambitious and unprecedented campaign of blood tests”, known as biological passport. “It will make it possible to establish the complete biological ‘fingerprint’ of the participants. It is an indirect method of detection that consists of measuring and monitoring certain biological indicators, whose abnormal variations could be indicative of doping practices, “they announced at the time.
For nine months, Negesa did not know its results. Until he received a call shortly before traveling to England for what would be his first Olympic Games. “I was looking forward to it. It was my dream. But a couple of weeks before, I got a call from my international manager. Said there was something in my blood samples and that he could not compete in the Olympic Games ”, he recalls eight years later.
His dream was put on hiatus at age 20. He watched the London Olympic Stadium on TV. She left her house little, because she was supposedly injured, and did not speak to the media.
“After the London Olympics, an IAAF doctor contacted me and asked me to travel to Nice for a medical evaluation. He contacted me through messages and emails. I flew alone to Nice. My international manager was with me at the hospital, where the doctors spoke to him in a language he did not know. They did various tests, including blood tests, and sent me to a hospital in Uganda, ”he lists the events of those days in 2012.
The IAAF dialogue was not directly with her, so they did not explain “much during that process”. “I knew I wanted to go back to competing in sport. Then I felt that I should follow what they said. I didn’t realize they were going to do surgery. I thought it would be like an injection”, She warns about that gonadectomy that was performed at the Womens Hospital International & Fertility Center in Kampala.
“I noticed that I had cuts after waking up in the hospital. I felt so weak after the surgery that I didn’t run again. Months later, I tried to train again but felt very weak. I tried over and over again, but my body didn’t feel good anymore. I didn’t know I needed to do hormone therapy for life until 2019, seven years after surgery.”He reports.
Without post-operative controls or treatments, Negesa tried to return to her normal life. At that time, I was in the first semester of the University. But without sports results, the possibility of studying also disappeared. “I was discarded from the University because I was no longer good at sports. They got my scholarship“, Explain.
Without support from their federation (“They only monitor you while you’re running; if you’re out of the circuit, they don’t care about you,” he complains), went from athlete to changarín in Uganda. “I didn’t have a job. I was winning through sports and suddenly I had no money to support myself. The following years were tough. I did manual labor to make ends meet ”, he remarks.
Submerged in a reality for which she had not prepared herself, in 2019 she met the doctor Payoshni mitra, an activist for athletes’ rights. Contained and supported, she was encouraged to bring her case to light. He denounced what happened to him and reaffirms in the dialogue with Clarion what “Certainly not ethical” that World Athletics demand hormonal treatments and / or surgical interventions from its athletes to compete.
He also left Uganda, settled in Germany and started racing again. And he is excited about a better future, one that resembles that past that an international federation put on hiatus eight years ago: “I love running and I am happy to be able to train again. So I still hope I can compete again”.