Caster Semenya loses court challenge against IAAF testosterone rules

The IAAF wants Caster Semenya and other female athletes with differences of sexual development to take testosterone blockers. (Dominic Ebenbichler/Reuters)

The IAAF wants Caster Semenya and other female athletes with differences of sexual development to take testosterone blockers. (Dominic Ebenbichler/Reuters)

The Court for Arbitration of Sport (CAS) has rejected Caster Semenya’s appeal to prevent the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) from implementing new testosterone regulations.

It’s a potentially devastating verdict, the double Olympic gold medal athlete who will now have to artificially reduce her testosterone levels should she wish to continue competing in her favoured events. 

South Africa’s star runner approached CAS after the IAAF introduced new middle-distance regulations in April last year. The “eligibility regulations for female classification” restricted the levels of testosterone allowed in women intending to run the 400m, hurdles, 800m, 1 500m and combined events.

Under such rules, 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).

What’s next?

This will be Semenya’s life if she continues to compete in the specified middle distance events. Ironically the treatment to lower “unnatural” testosterone is anything but natural.
Drugs and/or hormone therapy await any athlete that is affected by the regulations.

In Semenya’s case, it is uncertain whether we would see her run the specified distances at IAAF-sanctioned events again. While she has previously been on hormone medication in the past, the long-term health ramifications and performance harming factors are unclear.

She won gold in 5 000m at the South African Athletics Championships on Friday — leading to speculation that she is preparing to conquer distances outside the new rule’s jurisdiction.

The IAAF has a long history of trying to enforce gender restrictions and this precedent could allow them to revisit other cases. Indian sprinter Dutee Chand, for instance, won her appeal against hyperandrogenism restrictions in 2015 but CAS did see merits in the IAAF’s case and told it to come back with more evidence.

Semenya can appeal to the Swiss Federal Tribunal within 30 days.

Read CAS’s media release below: 

  Media Release Semenya ASA IAAF Decision by Mail and Guardian on Scribd

Luke Feltham

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