Caster Semenya case kicks off

Caster Semenya is expected to have her case heard before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CSA) this week. The Olympic gold medalist, backed by Athletics SA (ASA), is challenging regulations that would force her to artificially lower her testosterone levels in order to compete in sanctioned competition.

In April, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) introduced new “eligibility regulations for female classification” that restricted the testosterone levels for female athletes in the 400m, hurdles, 800m, 1 500m and combined events.

READ MORE: Bad science won’t undo Semenya

If the rules had to remain in place, athletes who have a “difference of sexual development” (DSD) would be rigorously monitored and forced to lower, and then maintain for six months, their testosterone levels to five nanomoles a litre (nmol/l).

The upcoming CAS hearing has the potential to set major precedents in athletics. With the 2020 Summer Olympics a little over a year away, there are possible ramifications for athletes who find themselves in a similar predicament as Semenya.

Various local and international sporting figures and organisations have leapt to the defence of Semenya, including Cricket SA, Banyana Banyana and tennis great Martina Navaratilova, offering support ahead of the case.

On Friday, Sports Minister Tokozile Xasa urged the nation to lend its support to Caster Semenya and emphasised that government is fully backing her and has sent a legal team to the CAS hearing.

“Through our department of sport and recreation we have established a high-level panel consisting of the Medical and Legal work-streams respectively,” Xasa revealed. “This panel consists of experts in both medical and legal fraternities who constitute the respective work streams.

“Work in all the streams has commenced and the high-level panel have prepared a formidable case based on legal and medical data collected, and the legal team will appear before CAS to present the case in support of the case lodged by both ASA and Ms Caster Mokgadi Semenya. The third government stream has also started with its work, which primarily focus on mobilisation of public and international support for the ASA and Caster Semenya cases, and condemnation of the regulations, both their letter and spirit.”

In the months after the announcement of the new regulations, the IAAF has remained steadfast on its right to implement them. It has also previously said that it “expects” the CAS to reject the appeal.

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Luke Feltham
Luke Feltham is a features writer at the Mail & Guardian

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