Christine Mboma ‘did not lose hope’ during enforced 20-month lay-off

Olympic 200m silver medallist Christine Mboma says her enforced hiatus from athletics took a toll on her mental health, but continuing to train stopped her losing hope.

The 20-year-old has not raced competitively for 20 months after a change to the rules for athletes classed as having differences in sexual development (DSD).

The Namibian has been taking medication to lower her naturally-occurring testosterone levels and will return in the 100m at the Kip Keino Classic in Kenya on Saturday.

“It’s not easy mentally – I’m not okay even now,” Mboma told BBC Sport Africa.

“I am a strong person and any stuff that happened to me, I tried to forget. But it’s not easy.

“Training made me not lose hope, and then also it helped me with managing the stuff that I was going through.”

DSD is a group of rare conditions, external whereby a person’s hormones, genes and/or reproductive organs may be a mix of male and female characteristics. Some of those affected prefer the term ‘intersex’.

World Athletics felt DSD athletes would have an unfair advantage in female races, and in 2018 the governing body put rules in place to require them to lower testosterone levels in order to compete in events ranging from 400m up to the mile.

Unable to run her favoured 400m, Mboma ran over 200m at the delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympics and became the first Namibian woman to win a medal at the games.She also became world under-20 champion over 200m in 2021.

Then, in 2023, World Athletics further revised its regulations, barring DSD athletes from competing in any track events unless they reduced their high testosterone levels.

DSD athletes are now required to reduce their blood testosterone level to below 2,5 nanomoles per litre (down from the previous figure of 5nmol/L), and remain under that threshold, in order to compete internationally in the female category in any track and field event.

That locked Mboma out of all competition until she complied with the new regulations – including what would have been her first senior World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, last August.

It left the Namibian track star’s career in limbo and former rugby player turned athletics coach Henk Botha, who works with Mboma, was “shocked” by the rule changes.

“It was a difficult time for myself and Christine, just coping with whether she can run again,” Botha told BBC Sport Africa.

“But I must give so much credit to her and how she handled it. She’s strong [to] even have a smile on her face here and be excited to run.”
Mboma will return to competition on Saturday in Nairobi, for the first time since winning bronze in the 200m at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

“It has been a long time since I have run. I’m looking forward to run again,” she said.

“I am happy to be back to the place I love, which is running.” – BBC

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