Biggest controversies from a decade of women's sport: Doping scandals, sackings and superstar tantrums

Mark Sampson was sacked as England women's manager following evidence of "inappropriate and unacceptable" behaviour in a previous role (PA Images)
Mark Sampson was sacked as England women's manager following evidence of "inappropriate and unacceptable" behaviour in a previous role (PA Images)
15:19pm, Wed 01 Jan 2020
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It has been quite the decade for women's sport. The progression towards gender equality and growing interest in female competition has improved greatly in the 2010's.

However, the last ten years have not been without controversy. So, let's take a look back at some of the major talking points.

Caster Semenya testosterone rule change

Caster Semenya won Olympic gold in the 800m at London 2012 and Rio 2016 (PA Images)

This has been an issue which has rumbled on since the last decade when Semenya was asked by the IAAF to take a sex verification test back in 2009.

Although the results were never officially published, the South African was cleared to race and subsequently went on to win the 400m at both the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games.

Then, after the IAAF's rule on testosterone levels in female competitors was suspended in 2015 due to insufficient evidence that it improved athletic performance, the organisation brought in a new stipulation in 2018.

It stated that female athletes that have raised testosterone levels of 5 nmol/L or higher must take medication to lower their levels if they wish to compete in the 400m, 800m or 1500m as of May 2019.

Those who opposed the new rule suggested it was designed to specifically target Semenya and the two-time Olympic champion appealed the decision.

And despite the rule being provisionally suspended by a Federal Supreme Court in June 2019, that decision was reversed a month later and Semenya was forced to miss the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha.

In September 2019, she joined a South African football team and revealed that the ordeal she had gone through with the IAAF had 'destroyed' her.

Russian doping scandal

One of Coe's first jobs as IAAF President was to deal with the Russian doping scandal (PA Images)

This is potentially the most high profile controversy, not only in women's sport, but in sport in general over the last decade.

The state-sponsored Russian doping programme was first uncovered when whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov, who was named by WADA as being at the 'heart of Russian doping', revealed his experiences helping the country's athletes to cheat.

In July 2016, the McLaren report revealed how 643 positive samples had been tampered with, a number the authors of the document considered to be 'only a minimum' due to a lack of access to Russian records.

The result was that an IOC panel would make a decision on an athlete-by-athlete basis whether or not they could compete at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Following the Games, Russia were then banned from the 2018 Winter Olympics.

In September 2019, after reports some data had been manipulated and tampered with in a Moscow laboratory, it was announced Russia would remain banned for the 2020 Olympics and potentially the 2022 Winter Olympics, 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2024 Olympics.

Mark Sampson sacked as Lionesses boss

England were knocked out of the 2015 Women's World Cup in the semi-finals (PA Images)

Former Lionesses boss Mark Sampson was at the centre of a media storm in 2017 after being sacked by the FA after nearly four years in charge.

The governing body said the reason he lost his job was because there was 'clear evidence of inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour' in a previous role.

Independent investigative barrister Katherine Newton then found after Sampson's dismissal that allegations of racist behaviour by the coach were unfounded.

It led to the FA releasing a statement supporting Newton's findings, saying there was 'no evidence of wrongdoing' on the part of Sampson.

However, in October 2017 the FA apologised to Eniola Aluko and Drew Spence after Newton came to the conclusion that comments made towards the two players were 'discriminatory on the grounds of race'.

One week before Sampson's unfair dismissal case was due to be heard in court in January 2019, the FA paid a 'significant' financial settlement to the former England manager.

USA Gymnastics sex abuse scandal

Nassar was sentenced to 60 years in prison on child pornography charges in December 2017 (PA Images)

One of the most extensive cases of sexual abuse in sports history was uncovered in 2016.

The abuse was first revealed by Rachael Denhollander who came forward as one of two former US gymnasts accusing national team doctor Larry Nassar of sexual abuse.

Nassar's employers at the time, Michigan University, fired him following the allegations, which resulted in more than 250 women and girls accusing him of sexual misconduct, many of whom were minors at the time.

Over the course of several sentences in 2016 and 2017, Nassar was given 60 years and an additional 40 to 175 years in prison for child pornography offences and sexual assault charges.

As of 2019, he is incarcerated at United States Penitentiary, Coleman.

Following the case, four-time Olympic gold medal gymnast Simone Biles criticised USA Gymnastics in their handling of the situation, saying: "You literally had one job and you couldn't protect us.

"It's hard coming here for an organisation having had them fail us so many times. "It's just really sad because now every time I go to the doctor or I get worked on, I don't want to get worked on."

Formula One axes grid girls

The grid girls debate was a major topic of conversation in 2018 (PA Images)

Formula One took the decision in 2018 to stop using grid girls at races, something which caused a huge debate.

W Series winner Jamie Chadwick said of the decision: "I think the focus should be on the machines. I think, basically, if you're coming to look at the grid girls then you're at the wrong sport.

"There are stereotypes of the grid girls but a lot of them are at university, they have other jobs. They are beautiful girls that are at work and a lot of them just really love motorsports."

In the aftermath the governing bodies of other sports such as boxing were criticised for not following suit by banning ring card girls.

However, Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn responded to the criticism and defended the use of ring girls.

He said: "Firstly, darts is shown on TV a lot and the truth is the walk-on girls aren’t really doing anything. Whereas the ring card girls are actually serving a purpose. And secondly, the ring card girls have been a part of boxing history for many, many years.

"As far as I am aware, darts will still have dancers on stage performing, but the walk-on girls were not really necessary. From a boxing point of view, we want to keep the traditions of the sport going and in my opinion it has nothing to do with sexism or feminism. It is just a part of boxing."

Serena Williams US Open Final outburst

Williams was furious with umpire Carlos Ramos during the US Open Final in 2018 (PA Images)

In the 2018 US Open Final between Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams, the Japanese youngster's maiden Grand Slam victory was not the standout memory.

After losing the opening set 6-2, Williams proceeded to angrily jesticulate a number of times at umpire Carlos Ramos when she deemed decisions were not going her way.

The American was visibly upset on the court and remained emotional after Osaka won the match in straight sets.

Osaka then also began to cry at the net following her win as Williams consoled the player 16 years her junior.

After the match, Osaka addressed the crowd by saying: "I know everyone was cheering for her and I'm sorry it had to end like this."

The main controversy in the fallout of the incident centred around Williams' suggestion that male players 'do a lot worse' things than her on the court and are not punished, citing sexism as one of the reasons she was treated the way she was.

US soccer team's gender equality lawsuit

Rapinoe has been extremely vocal about equal pay within US soccer (PA Images)

Despite many, many leaps forward in gender equality throughout the 2010s, the financial inequality in the majority of sports remains an issue.

This was brought to the attention of the wider public again in 2019 when the US women's soccer team filed a lawsuit against their own national federation citing gender discrimination.

This is in relation to the amount of money which the now back-to-back World Cup winning team receive in comparison to their male counterparts who failed to even qualify for the 2018 tournament.

A total of 28 players came together to file the lawsuit as they described the way they had been treated as indicative of 'institutionalised gender discrimination'.

The suit, which was filed to the US District Court in Los Angeles in March 2019, outlined their argument by saying: "Despite the fact that these female and male players are called upon to perform the same job responsibilities on their teams and participate in international competitions for their single common employer, the USSF, the female players have been consistently paid less money than their male counterparts.

"This is true even though their performance has been superior to that of the male players, with the female players, in contrast to male players, becoming world champions."

It remains an ongoing battle between the team and federation, one which has been fuelled even more by the US team's continued success at the 2019 World Cup, the women's side's fourth triumph in eight tournaments.

Sifan Hassan's doubled gold marred by Salazar allegations

Hassan celebrates winning the 1500m world title (PA Images)

Sifan Hassan was in the news for two very contrasting reasons during the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha.

The 26-year-old won world titles in both the 1500m and 10,000m at the event, something which had never previously been done by a man or woman at a world championships or Olympic Games.

However, it was her post-race interview which caught the headlines as she proceeded to defend her relationship with recently disgraced coach Alberto Salazar.

She told BBC Sport: "This was a very hard week for me and I was just so angry. I've been clean all my life. I work hard.

"I couldn't talk to anyone. I just ran all out. I just want to show people that hard work can be better than everything."

"The door is open. If they're going to test me every day, I'm open for it. How do people think we are cheating? They think I don't get tested? I get tested every time.

"We are always clean. We always stay clean. We work hard."

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