IOC President Thomas Bach said Saturday he has “a lot of sympathy” for Caster Semenya after the South African runner lost her Court of Arbitration for Sport appeal in a landmark case against track and field’s governing body.
Based on Wednesday’s CAS decision, Semenya, who won the 800 meters at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, would have to artificially reduce her levels of testosterone to defend her titles at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
After winning an 800-meter race at the Doha Diamond League on Friday, her reply to a question of whether she will now submit to new IAAF regulations and take hormone-reducing medication was: “Hell no.”
At the Australian Olympic Committee annual general meeting on Saturday, Bach said at a media conference: “First of all I must say I have a lot of sympathy for Caster Semenya over this decision.”
“Having said this, the issue as such is extremely complex,” Bach added. “It has scientific impact, it has ethical impact, it impacts on fair play in competition so it’s extremely delicate and it’s extremely difficult to do justice to all these.”
“The IOC respects CAS decisions, as we always do, but from a human point of view, yes, I have sympathy for her.”
Bach said an IOC committee would go over the full CAS ruling once it was available, including recommendations on how the rules should be implemented.
During an earlier speech to the AOC meeting, Bach said: “In Olympic sport, all people are equal regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, cultural background or political beliefs. Therefore, we stand firmly against discrimination of any kind.”
Bach also said the IOC wants boxing at the Tokyo Games and is prepared to organize both the qualification and the competition on its own if the sport’s troubled international governing body, the AIBA, loses its Olympic status over leadership and financial problems.
“You know boxing is an important Olympic sport,” Bach said. “It’s a very universal sport, so we want to have boxing on the program. And then if the case arises and we would have to make an effort then to have such a tournament.”
British runner Sharp received death threats for Semenya comments
British runner Lynsey Sharp said on Friday she had received death threats for past comments about South African Caster Semenya’s “advantage” in middle distance races. “I’ve had death threats. I’ve had threats against my family and that’s not a position I want to be in,” the 28-year-old told the BBC after finishing ninth behind winner Semenya in Friday’s Diamond League 800m race in Doha.
“It’s really unfortunate the way it’s played out.” The victory was the 30th consecutive for double Olympic champion Semenya at the distance but the last before new International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) rules affecting the South African and other women with high natural levels of testosterone come into effect.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled on Wednesday the regulations were necessary for athletes with differences in sexual development (DSDs) to ensure fair competition.
In the future, Semenya and others with DSD must take medication to reduce their testosterone levels to under 5 nmol/L – double the normal female range of below 2 nmol/L – if they wish to continue competing in races between 400 metres and a mile.
But the South African defiantly said “hell no” on Friday when asked if she would take medication.
Sharp, the 2012 European 800m champion, said it has been a difficult time for her and other runners dealing with the situation.
“By no means am I over the moon about this, it’s just been a long 11 years for everyone,” said Sharp, who once said Semenya was “light years ahead” of her competitors.
“I’ve known Caster since 2008, it’s something I’ve been familiar with over the past 11 years.
“No-one benefits from this situation – of course she doesn’t benefit, but it’s not me versus her, it’s not us versus them.”
Testosterone is a hormone that increases muscle mass, strength and haemoglobin – which affects endurance. Some competitors have said women with higher levels of the hormone have an unfair advantage.