Tamara Press was four Olympic medals, three of them gold, before retiring abruptly ©Getty Images

Tamara Press, a three-time Olympic champion for the Soviet Union whose outstanding performances led to speculation over her gender, has died age 83.

Press died on April 26, 14 days shy of an 84th birthday, Russia's Ministry of Sport announced.

At the Rome 1960 Olympics, Press won a shot put gold medal and silver in the discus.

Four years later, at Tokyo 1964, Press did the shot put and discus double, setting Olympic records in both.

Younger sister Irina Press was also an Olympic champion, winning gold medals in the 80-metre hurdles in 1960 and pentathlon in 1964. 

The Press family's success did not go unnoticed, and coupled with their physique - Tamara was listed as 5ft 11in tall and 102 kilograms - led to unproven rumours and speculation that about the sisters' gender.

Some media outlets referred to them as the "Press brothers".

Both retired abruptly in 1966, shortly before invasive gender testing was introduced to track and field.

Debate and controversy surrounding intersex athletes rages to this day, with two-time Olympic 800m champion Caster Semenya the most high-profile example.

Tamara Press on the podium after winning shot put gold at Tokyo 1964 in a new Olympic record ©Getty Images
Tamara Press on the podium after winning shot put gold at Tokyo 1964 in a new Olympic record ©Getty Images

The South African wants the European Court of Human Rights to hear an appeal against World Athletics rules which now force her to take testosterone-suppressing medication to compete in events including the 800m.

Following retirement, Tamara Press was active in coaching and science, earning a doctoral degree in pedagogical sciences.

Press wrote the books the books The Price of Victory and This Athletics Is Not Easy, and led the Board of Trustees of the Contemporary Sports Museum in Moscow.

For outstanding sporting achievements, Press was awarded the Order of Friendship, Order of Lenin and Badge of Honor.

Sister Irina died in 2004.

In additional to the Olympic medals, Press was a two-time Universiade champion - in shot put at Sofia 1961 and Porto Alegre 1963 -  and three-time European champion.

Press won the discus and shot put double in 1962 in Belgrade, having won discus gold and shot put bronze four years beforehand in Stockholm.

Setting 11 world records between 1959 and 1965, Press finished with personal bests of 18.59 metres in the shot put and 59.70m in the discus throw.