Sports Illustrated, unknown date

In Defense Of Womanhood

There was a time when any athlete who entered a woman's event in an international track meet was accepted as being a woman and no indelicate questions were asked. But as the importance of the competition has grown, so have the suspicions that men are sneaking into the female ranks. At the European Championships in Budapest last week, three doctors were on hand to inspect each competitor and certify her femininity. The doctors did not uncover a single male, but this did little to allay suspicions, because some of the best European ladies did not show up for the meet. Notably, Yolanda Balas, the matchless Rumanian high jumper, did not enter the competition, and neither did Soviet Hurdler Irina Press or her weight-tossing sister, Tamara. In the face of rumors that Yolanda Balas was abstaining to conceal her manhood, Rumanians explained that she was having a baby. According to the Russians, the Press girls were home with a sick mother. These explanations, given in an atmosphere already supercharged with distrust, brought snickers from newspapermen and assorted cynics.

In this modern day, perhaps it is necessary to inspect and certify athletes as one would a herd of dairy cows. Regardless, we deplore the fact that suspicions can run so loose that performers like Yolanda Balas and the Press sisters are challenged and implicated in absentia. As we see it, any lady, American, Rumanian, Russian - even a bearded lady - should be able to stay home with a sick mother, or a sick headache, or with any other excuse, however valid or limp. When we reach the point where absence from the arena is considered evidence of fraud, it is time to close the show.