South African double Olympic 800m champion Caster Semenya is taking her fight with World Athletics to the European Court of Human Rights.
- World Athletics introduced laws which forced Caster Semenya out of competing in the 800m
- Some female athletes with naturally high testosterone levels were forced to have them reduced or not compete
- Semenya has already lost two appeals in separate courts over World Athletics’ rules
Semenya is one of a number of female athletes with differences in sexual development (DSD), who World Athletics insist must reduce their naturally high levels of testosterone in order to compete.
This can be done either through the use of drugs or surgical interventions.
The regulations are for runners who compete in distances from 400m to one mile (1600m).
Women described as having DSD are said to have an unfair advantage due to excessive, but naturally occurring, testosterone in their system
Semenya has vowed to fight the regulations but has already lost an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), and another subsequent plea to the Swiss Federal Tribunal (SFT) asking for the CAS ruling to be set aside.
But on Tuesday her lawyers confirmed the runner would take her case to the European Court of Human Rights.
“We remain hopeful that World Athletics will see the error it has made and reverse the prohibitive rules which restrict Ms Semenya from competing,” Semenya’s lawyer Greg Nott said.
The South African champion burst onto the scene as a teenager winning gold in the 800m at the 2009 World Championships.
She went on to win the 800m gold medal at the next two Olympic Games.
However, her success has been controversial due to her being an athlete with DSD.
The new regulations were introduced in 2018 and were immediately challenged by Semenya.
In 2019, the ruling against her was upheld by CAS.
Following this Semenya said she would not conform to the regulations and forcefully lower her natural testosterone levels.
World Athletics have consistently said the regulations are aimed at creating a level playing field for all athletes.
Hyperandrogenism and the IAAF
The IAAF’s rules were called sexist, racist, unethical, and based on bad science, but the governing body dug its heels in.
“World Athletics has always maintained that its regulations are lawful and legitimate, and that they represent a fair, necessary and proportionate means of ensuring the rights of all female athletes to participate on fair and equal terms,” the governing body said in a statement after the SFT case.
Then new regulations were also criticised by medical professionals.
The World Medical Association in 2019 urged physicians against performing these procedures on athletes.
The organisation’s chairman, Frank Ulrich Montgomery told ABC’s The Ticket that doctors should not be taking part in the practice.
“We do think it is extremely serious if international sports regulations demand physicians to prescribe medication — hormonally active medication — for athletes in order to reduce normal conditions in their body,” he said.
Athletics South Africa insist Semenya is still part of their team for the Tokyo Olympic Games next year, though over what distance remains to be seen.
She has also been competing in the 200-metre sprint, which falls outside of the World Athletics regulations.