Recently, track runners Liao Mengxue and Tong Zenghuan had taken gold and silver at the women’s 4×400 relay event at National Track and Field Championships in China.
But that’s not what caught the attention of social media.
With the spread of images of the athletes across the internet, many netizens have accused both Liao and Tong of “looking like men”.
Some have called the gender of these athletes into question, as they competed in the women’s relay event.
Based off the physical appearance of the gold and silver medallist, their impressive competition results have been eclipsed by a national debate regarding gender and sport.
Furthermore, netizens have responded with criticism after a video of Liao being interviewed was resurfaced.
The video starts at the 16-second mark.
Her low voice was scrutinised by netizens, further fuelling rumors that the pair were masquerading as men
The voice is too male when interviewed!
Consequently, the Chinese Athletics Association released a statement addressing the rumors, declaring that the two athletes are female.
Furthermore, the Chinese Athletics Association denied that Liao and Tong are intersex.
Despite the statement, some netizens have continued to cry foul, accusing the pair of taking performance-enhancing drugs or hormone therapy.
Many social media users however have defended the women, focusing instead on their accomplishments.
It’s gotta suck that you accomplish something so great just to be ripped apart on social media. People are petty. They’re just jealous because they live unfulfilling lives
Recently, the subject of gender has been a source of controversy in sports, especially with female athletes like Caster Semenya being scrutinised for their athletic abilities.
Regardless of the scrutiny, Liao and Tong have both expressed that they intend to continue racing.