Eight of the “women” on Iran’s female soccer team are actually physically and biologically men, who claim to be “transgender.”
None of the eight have undergone a formal sex change operation.
Mojtabi Sharifi, an official with close ties to the Iranian soccer league, confirmed to an Iranian news website that the rumors are, in fact, true, though he declined to name the names of the players thought to be men.
The Iranian women’s team plays in baggy long-sleeve shirts, track pants, and headscarves–with only their face and hands uncovered–which would, conceivably, make it easier for a man to go undercover and take advantage of the commanding physical edge over women who were born as women.
Sex changes are, contrary to common belief, actually commonplace and reasonably accepted in ultra-conservative Iran–where changing gender is generally seen as preferable to homosexuality, which Sharia law considers a sin.
It’s unclear whether or not the Iranian government had anything to do with stacking, but government agents have vowed to force players to undergo gender testing to get to the bottom of the scandal.
Male-to-female transgender athletes have long been a point of contention in sports–largely because men have a stronger build, larger bodies, and more muscle definition, which doesn’t go away even as they transition their gender. It often affects not just the fairness of the game, but the safety of the players.
Earlier this year, American transgender mixed martial arts fighter Fallon Fox seriously injured a female opponent–who was immediately outmatched in the fight because Fox, who was born a man and had only recently transitioned, had such a physical advantage. Ronda Roussey, one of the biggest names in women’s mixed martial arts, later said that she wouldn’t fight Fox.
It’s unclear whether or not the Iranian government had anything to do with stacking their women’s soccer team full of biological men, but government agents have vowed to force players to undergo gender testing to get to the bottom of the scandal.