Eight members of Iran’s women’s soccer team are men, a report says. However, Iranian authorities explained the problem away by insisting that all eight men are transgender and awaiting sex change surgery.
Despite the government’s claims about the impending surgeries, Iran’s team was called “unethical” for being filled with stronger, faster men, according to The Telegraph.
The news broke after an Iranian official, Mojtabi Sharifi, admitted that “[Eight players] have been playing with Iran’s female team without completing sex change operations.”
Soccer authorities ordered all members of Iran’s team to undergo gender testing. The names of the males in the team were not identified.
“Gender change operations are legal in Iran according to a fatwa – or religious ruling – pronounced by the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, spiritual leader of the 1979 Islamic revolution,” the Telegraph reports.
The revelation is nothing new for Iran’s female teams. The problem has been extant for a decade, at least. Rumors abounded in 2010 that members of the female team were men and the nation’s soccer authority introduced random gender checks in 2014 after members of the women’s team were revealed to be men.
Female athletes face a series of challenges in the oppressive Muslim nation. Women are still unable to travel unless their husbands or fathers give them permission and the captain of Iran’s national female team, Niloufar Ardalan, was recently prevented from accompanying the team to a game in Malaysia because her husband would not allow her to fly there.
“As a Muslim woman, I wanted to work for my country’s flag to be raised [at the games], rather than traveling for leisure and fun,” Ardalan said.
“I wish authorities would create [measures] that would allow female athletes to defend their rights in such situations,” she added.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.