Double Olympic champion Caster Semenya will run her last 800-metres on Friday before the International Association of Athletics Federations imposes hugely controversial new rules limiting testosterone in female athletes.
Semenya, who has spent years trying to get the new IAAF regulations thrown out, will compete at the Diamond League meeting in Doha against 2016 Olympic silver medallist Francine Niyonsaba – who recently revealed she had similar difference in sexual development (DSD) characteristics to the South African.
Both must then begin taking medication to lower their testosterone levels if they wish to compete over that distance based on the new rules, which the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) said on Wednesday were necessary to ensure fair competition.
The case is likely to have far-reaching consequences for women’s sport, and has split opinion around the globe.
Athletics South Africa likened the new IAAF regulations to apartheid, and both it and Semenya’s lawyers have said they could contest the CAS ruling dismissing her appeal against their introduction.
Under the rules to take effect on May 8, female athletes with high natural levels of testosterone wishing to compete in events from 400-metres to a mile must medically limit that level to under 5 nmol/L, which is double the normal female range of below 2 nmol/L.
Barring further legal action, that leaves Semenya at a crossroads: Either she submits to the regulations or looks to compete in longer distances.
She claimed the 5,000-metres title at the South African Athletics Championships last week, an event not covered by the IAAF regulations, but in a modest time of 16:05.97, well below the qualifying standard for the world championships of 15:22.00.
This potential lifeline means Semenya may not abandon the 800-metres yet, though any advance to the Swiss Federal Tribunal could take months to reach a verdict and leave her career in limbo.
“I know that the IAAF’s regulations have always targeted me specifically,” Semenya, 28, said in a statement released via her lawyers on Wednesday.
“For a decade the IAAF has tried to slow me down, but this has actually made me stronger. The decision of the CAS will not hold me back. I will once again rise above and continue to inspire young women and athletes in South Africa and around the world.”
Semenya’s personal best of 1:54.25 will make her the quickest in the field in Doha’s Diamond League meet, the first time she will compete over the distance in 2019.
ASA may approach Swiss tribunal after Semenya’s CAS setback
Athletics South Africa (ASA) is considering approaching the Swiss Federal Tribunal after the Court of Arbitration for Sport(CAS) dismissed Caster Semenya’s appeal against regulations to limit naturally-occurring testosterone levels in athletes with differences of sexual development (DSDs).
The national governing body for athletics was “deeply disappointed and profoundly shocked” as a CAS panel dismissed the appeal by double Olympic 800-metres champion Semenya against the implementation of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) regulations.
“ASA respects the CAS decision and will now review the ruling and decide whether to consider the option of taking this matter to the Swiss Federal Tribunal within the 30 days as stipulated in the ruling,” it said in a statement.
“We are, however, reeling in shock at the how a body held in high esteem like CAS can endorse discrimination without flinching.
“We are deeply disappointed and profoundly shocked that the CAS award is in favour of upholding the new IAAF regulations for female athletes.”
ASA went on to compare the regulations to apartheid, where South African citizens were separated by racial group and afforded differing rights based on their skin colour.
“South Africa knows discrimination better and CAS has seen it fit to open the wounds of Apartheid, a system of discrimination condemned by the whole world as a crime against humanity.
“For CAS does not only condone discrimination, but also goes to lengths to justify it, (which) only undermines the integrity that this body is entrusted with. We believe their decision is disgraceful.”
ASA said “compelling” evidence had been placed before the CAS.
“ASA was confident of a favourable outcome given the human rights, medico-legal and scientific arguments and evidence that we believe invalidated the regulations.
“It is these facts that have left ASA shocked that CAS rejected these compelling factors in favour of the IAAF.
“Given the profound and global effect, plus consequences the implementation of the regulations will have, the regulations may warrant to be tested in a higher tribunal with jurisdiction to pronounce on the CAS ruling.”
CAS ruled the regulations were necessary for female athletes with DSDs who compete in events ranging from 400-metres to a mile.
This is to ensure fair competition by medically limiting their blood testosterone level to under 5 nmol/L, which is double the normal female range of below 2 nmol/L.
The IAAF welcomed the verdict on Wednesday, saying it was “pleased that the regulations were found to be a necessary, reasonable and proportionate means of achieving the IAAF’s legitimate aim of preserving the integrity of female athletics in the restricted events”.