How the Olympics continue to suppress black athletes

Written by: Janelle Emokpae


The Olympics are described as being an international multi-sport athletic competition that has taken place since 1896. With that kind of history, one would expect that by now there would be more equitable rules in place for all athletes, but unfortunately, this is not the case. This historic competition goes by the motto, "faster, higher, stronger", a saying that seems to exclude people of color, specifically black athletes. A lot of what the Olympics does is swept under the rug or disguised as being "only fair" when in reality it is plain suppression.


Simone Biles Being Punished For Being Too Good

Over the past 5 years Simone Biles, an American Gymnast, has been one of the big faces of the Olympics. Every year you hear about Simone breaking yet another record proving to us once again that she is one of the greatest athletes of all time. Unfortunately, this status comes with some setbacks. Simone has now come up with new gymnastic moves and has done tricks that were deemed impossible in the past. With her going the extra lengths to further improve and showcase her skills, most would expect that this would result in her getting more points from judges, but it's quite the opposite. Judges don't care to acknowledge her ability to exceed expectations as she continues to execute moves no other gymnast has even attempted to do. The “explanation” for this is that her routines pose a safety risk, and judges think that if Simone's moves are rewarded with higher scores, more gymnasts would want to try them. Simone's athletic ability has also been criticized as being unfair to other gymnasts while white athletes like Michael Phelps, a swimmer who has won the most Olympic medals in history, are praised for their abilities. It's quite sad to see such an amazing athlete like Simone Biles get put down just because she's black and talented.


The Banning of Swimming Caps for Natural Black Hair

Almost all Olympic swimmers can be seen wearing a swim cap when competing. White swimmers may only need a swim cap to secure their goggles or keep their hair out of their face, but for black swimmers, it is much different. Due to the volume of black hair, swim caps that actually fit are hard to find. Natural black hair tends to be dryer than white hair, so combining that with bleach found in pools causes it to become even dryer. Soul cap was invented in 2017 which was made to protect black hair when swimming. This particular brand of swim cap was banned by FINA, the International Swimming Federation, because they do not "follow the natural form of the head". This exclusionary ban specifically targets black women and is not based on the "fair play and equal opportunity" that the Olympics claim to uphold.


The Disqualification of Black Athletes for Having Naturally High Testosterone Levels

Christine Mboma and Beatrice Masilingi are 18-year-old Namibian track and field athletes that were on course to win Olympic medals this year. With them having some of the fastest running times in the world, their careers were on the rise but were shot down when they were disqualified from participating in the 400m Olympic race. The reason they were banned was because of their naturally high testosterone levels which gave them an unfair advantage according to the Olympic committee. Neither of these athletes knew that their testosterone levels were higher than normal as they have never been tested before. World Athletics suggests that women with high testosterone levels should take medication to reduce it to ensure fair competition. Understandably, Christine and Beatrice didn't want to take medication that would alter their bodies just to satisfy the Olympic committee. This rule has mainly targeted black women and puts an unnecessary spotlight on the false stereotype that some black women aren't "real" women.


Throughout all these hardships that the Olympics place on black athletes, they are still able to come out on top. Let's not forget about Usain Bolt, Gabby Douglas, Muhammad Ali, and once again Simone Biles who have managed to become some of the best Olympians and all-around athletes in the world. Instead of putting unnecessary rules and restrictions that target black people, the Olympics need to set a playing field that is equitable to all. Recognize them for their talents rather than suppressing their abilities. Black athletes need to get the recognition and celebration that they deserve.


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