South African track star Caster Semenya said on Thursday that controversial new rules on female testosterone levels risked “killing” the passion of the next generation of female athletes.
New IAAF rules on female athletes’ testosterone levels were due to begin on Thursday, but were put on hold for five months to avoid further delaying proceedings brought by Semenya challenging their legality.
“This is not about me. I’ve achieved everything I want in life — I’m world champion, Commonwealth champion, African champion,” she said when asked why she was challenging the rules at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
“If I let this thing go on, what about the next generation? It’s killing them. What about those young girls who want to run and are maybe in the same situation as mine.
“Someone has to do something… enough is enough, it’s been a long time I let these people command.”
Semenya, with the backing of the South African Athletics federation (ASA), has turned to the Lausanne-based CAS in her challenge of IAAF rules.
Semenya, the double Olympic 800m champion (2012, 2016) and three-time world champion (2009, 2011, 2017), is potentially the highest-profile female athlete that would be affected by the regulations.
Classified as “hyper-androgynous”, athletes like Semenya would have to chemically lower their testosterone levels to be able to compete, something she says is in violation of the IAAF’s constitution and the Olympic Charter.
Semenya, who spoke at a leadership summit in Johannesburg also attended by Bill and Hillary Clinton, said she was not initially interested in challenging the rules.
“I’m a talented athlete, what I wanted to do was just piss them off a bit,” she said.
“I wanted to show them that what they’re doing doesn’t make sense because once you start classifying women it’s a problem.”
Semenya said some competitors had been reluctant to back her cause.
“When it comes to situations like this, we athletes sometimes get to be scared of the challenge, because we think about what we’ve got to lose. Then we forget there’s a future. There are a few others who can stand up for you,” she said.
© Agence France-Presse