Polish-born Stella Walsh, the famed Olympic track star of the 1930s, was physically mainly a man, a coroner's report confirmed yesterday.
But the Cuyahoga County coroner, speaking in a community -- Cleveland -- where the winner of 1,100 awards was a heroine to a large ethnic populace, also said in his official report:
"Socially, culturally and legally, Stella Walsh was accepted as a female for 69 years. She lived and died a female."
Despite this, Coroner Samuel Gerber made it clear the runner, an Olympic gold medal winner in 1932 and a competitor into the 1950s, had only male sex organs, though small, nonfunctional ones. Most of her sex chromosones, he disclosed, were male (XY in genetic language), but a minority were XO (or abnormally female). Normal female sex chromosones are XX.
Walsh, in short, was one of the uncommon yet not rare human beings born as a sexual mixture, known as a "mosaic."
Born today, Gerber conceded, a baby with Walsh's problems would be diagnosed and treated differently.
"The sex of this infant would be ambiguous at the time of its birth," he wrote. "The baby would then be brought to the attention of experts in the field of genetics, endocrinology [hormones] and corrective surgery. The necessary measures" -- surgery or hormone treatment or both -- "could then be undertaken and the infant raised as either a male or female."
Thus ended a controversy over Walsh's gender that began Dec. 4 when she was shot to death in an apparent robbery attempt, and the results of an autopsy were disclosed by a Cleveland television station.