Maria José Martínez-Patiño

Maria José Martínez-Patiño (born 10 July 1961) is a Spanish former hurdler, whose dismissal from the Spanish Olympic team in 1986 for failing the gender test is a notable moment in the history of sex verification in sports.[1][2][3]

Martínez-Patiño was dismissed after a competition that would have set her up for participation at the 1988 Summer Olympics.[4] She was shamed publicly when she participated in a hurdles event in the Spanish national championships in 1986, but fought the loss of her IAAF license successfully and was able to compete for participation in the 1992 Olympics. Since then she has written about her experience, and her test and its fallout has become a highly publicized and frequently cited case concerning sex testing as well as the privacy of athletes.[5]

Athletic career

Martínez-Patiño participated in the 100 metres hurdles, where her best time is 13.71 (Madrid 1983). Her best performance in international competition was 13.78, at the 1983 World Championships in Athletics in Helsinki.[6]

Gender testing

Martínez-Patiño is a 46,XY woman[7] who has androgen insensitivity syndrome (AIS).[8] She passed a gender test in 1983 at the IAAF World Championships, and received her "certificate of femininity".[9] However, she failed the sex chromatin test in 1985, and thus was ruled ineligible to participate in women's athletics. The test was taken during the 1985 World University Games in Kobe, Japan, as a result of her having forgotten to bring the result from a test two years before, which she passed.[1][7] The sex chromatin test was, at the time, the first step in the gender verification process, and not intended to provide a definitive and final decision, but officials from the International Olympic Committee and the International Association of Athletics Federations routinely advised athletes to fake an injury after such a test so they could withdraw from competition quietly and protect their privacy.[note 1] This is what Martínez-Patiño was advised to do, and she complied.[8] Two months later she received a letter that classified her as male, citing her karyotype, 46,XY, though any perceived advantage she could be said to have is negated by her AIS: "she was disqualified for an advantage that she did not have".[9]

In 1986, she entered the 60 metres hurdles event in the Spanish national championships but was told that she could either withdraw quietly or be denounced in public. She competed and won, and was punished in the Spanish press. She lost her scholarship and her athletic residency, besides paying a high personal price by losing her privacy and her fiancé.[citation needed] She continued to fight her expulsion: in 1988 she was defended by the genetic scientist Albert de la Chapelle;[note 2] and her IAAF license was restored three months later. She tried to qualify for the 1992 Olympics, but fell short by one-tenth of a second.[9]

Published works

Martínez-Patiño described her experience in "Personal Account: A woman Tried and Tested", published by The Lancet in 2005.[12] In "Reexamining Rationales of 'Fairness': An Athlete and Insider's Perspective on the New Policies on Hyperandrogenism in Elite Female Athletes" published by the American Journal of Bioethics in 2012, Martínez-Patiño and co-author Hida Viloria discussed current sex testing practices in sport.[13]

See also


  1. The public humiliation of Ewa Kłobukowska, a Polish sprinter who had been declared a man in 1967, caused an outcry which led to a change in IOC policy.[10]
  2. De la Chappelle was an avowed critic of the testing performed by the IAAF,[9] having written in JAMA in 1986 that "the present screening method is both inaccurate and discriminatory".[11]


  1. Zeigler, Cyd (7 September 2011). "Moment #27: María José Martínez-Patiño kicked off Spanish track team, titles stripped". Outsports. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
  2. Ruth Padawer (June 28, 2016). "The Humiliating Practice of Sex-Testing Female Athletes". New York Times.
  3. "Caster Semenya expected to be affected by IAAF rule changes". BBC Sport. 2018-04-26. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  4. Bardin, Jon (30 July 2012). "Olympic Games and the tricky science of telling men from women". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
  5. Ferrante, Joan (2010). Sociology: A Global Perspective, Enhanced. Cengage Learning. p. 268. ISBN 9780840032041.
  6. "Athlete profile for María José Martinez Patino". International Association of Athletics Federations. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
  7. Ljungqvist, A. (2008). "Gender Verification". In Barbara L. Drinkwater (ed.). The Encyclopaedia of Sports Medicine: An IOC Medical Commission Publication, Women in Sport. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 183–193. ISBN 9780470756850. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
  8. Cole, Cheryl L. (2000). "One Chromosome Too Many?". In Kay Schaffer (ed.). The Olympics at the Millennium: Power, Politics, and the Games. Sidonie Smith. Rutgers UP. pp. 128–146. ISBN 9780813528205. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
  9. Schultz, Jaime (2014). Qualifying Times: Points of Change in U.S. Women's Sport. U of Illinois P. pp. 111–112. ISBN 9780252095962.
  10. Schultz, Jaime (2012). "Disciplining Sex: 'Gender Verification' Policies and Women's Sports". In Helen Jefferson Lenskyj (ed.). The Palgrave Handbook of Olympic Studies. Stephen Wagg. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 443–60. ISBN 9780230367463. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
  11. Wiesemann, Claudia (2011). "Is there a right not to know one's sex? The ethics of 'gender verification' in women's sports competition". Journal of Medical Ethics. 37 (4): 216–220. doi:10.1136/jme.2010.039081. JSTOR 23034791. PMID 21367768. S2CID 26775385.
  12. Martínez-Patiño, Maria José (December 2005). "Personal Account: A woman Tried and Tested". The Lancet. 366: 366–538. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(05)67841-5. PMID 16360746. S2CID 8742433.
  13. Viloria, Hida Patricia; Martínez-Patino, Maria Jose (July 2012). "Reexamining Rationales of 'Fairness': An Athlete and Insider's Perspective on the New Policies on Hyperandrogenism in Elite Female Athletes". The American Journal of Bioethics. 12 (7): 17–19. doi:10.1080/15265161.2012.680543. ISSN 1526-5161. PMID 22694024. S2CID 20865730.