Santhi Soundarajan, an Indian athlete whose career ended after a failed gender test, is working as a daily wager in a brick factory to earn her living.
Santhi was stripped of her women\\\’s 800 metres silver medal in the 2006 Asian Games after failing a gender test and was forced to quit the competitive athletics.
The stigma drove her to attempting a suicide in 2008.
I was frustrated but have got it over now. All my records have been erased. I now work hard in a brick kiln in Kathakuruchi in Pudukottai district, earning Rs 200 a day instead of on a sports ground," she said.
Her parents, Soundararajan and Manimegalai, too work at the brick unit run by her uncle for a collective daily pay of Rs 500.
Santhi said she quit her job as state government coach in 2010 as the salary was as low as Rs 5000.
Besides she was appointed on contract basis and her services were not regularised, she said.
She claimed that as coach, some of her wards won some national events.
In the initial days, I could do nothing with my hands after work. I could neither eat nor use my fingers to grasp any object. They would be tender and swollen. The situation is no better now," says the athlete.
There have been athletes who have failed gender tests before— with the most high profile case being Caster Semenya of South Africa. But things were different with her. She was supported by her whole nation and has been named the flag bearer of the country at the London Games after the International Association of Athletics Federations revoked her ban.
Santhi had also approached the district administration for a job. But this report quoted her as saying, “I met the district collector and told him that I was even ready to work as a peon. He wasn’t bothered. He said since I wasn’t registered with the employment bureau, I didn’t stand a chance. I told him about my feats as an athlete. I pleaded with him to consider my family’s plight and give me a job on compassionate grounds. My plea fell on deaf ears,” she said.
She was also denied permission to meet M Karunanidhi (then CM) and Jayalalitha (current CM). The prize money she received from Karunanidhi has already been used to faciliate her siblings’ education and marriages.