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Two runners who snagged medals at a women’s relay in China are being accused of lying about their gender because of their appearance.
Liao Mengxue and Tong Zenghuan were awarded first and second place in a 400-meter relay at the National Track and Field Championships Finals held on Aug. 22-24. Their pictures drew attention when the state-owned People’s Daily posted them on Facebook on Monday, Aug. 26.
The two athletes in question are members of the Hunan women’s track team. The Chinese Athletics Association has reportedly confirmed that they are female, the South China Morning Post reported on Tuesday.
The team’s success last July at the National Athletics Championships in Shenyang drew comments on Weibo about the athletes’ gender. Liao took the gold in the 400m and Tong came in third place.
A video interview in May featuring Liao reveals her speaking in a low voice. At the time, they competed at the IAAF World Relay Championships in Japan. The video has over 800,000 views as of this writing.
Despite what authorities said, netizens on Facebook and Weibo have scrutinized the athletes. “Prominent foreheads, hint of Adam’s apples and a bulge in their crotch. I would say men,” said Facebook user Oliver Dunne.
“This is the side effect of taking drugs. Their hormone levels will change greatly,” a Weibo user suspected, as per a NextShark report on Wednesday, Aug. 28. Performance-enhancing drugs such as anabolic steroids increases testosterone levels and could give women more masculine characteristics such as a deeper voice and more body hair.