‘Wrong side of history’: Caster Semenya’s CAS appeal shot down

Caster Semenya appears to have arrived at a disappointing end of an exhausting legal war. A Swiss federal tribunal on Tuesday shot down her appeal against the court of arbitration for sport (CAS) ruling that upheld new policies governing athletes with differences in sex development.

“Based on these findings, the CAS decision cannot be challenged,” the tribunal said in its decision. “Fairness in sport is a legitimate concern and forms a central principle of sporting competition. It is one of the pillars on which competition is based.”

The ruling is a bitter blow to Semenya, who now seems to have explored every legal avenue available to her. Unless there is a drastic turn of events, she will not be vying for gold in her favoured middle-distance events at the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics

Semenya, however, remains defiant, as has been her custom during the two-year string of setbacks, accusing World Athletics as standing on the wrong side of history.

“I am very disappointed by this ruling, but refuse to let World Athletics drug me or stop me from being who I am,” she said. “Excluding female athletes or endangering our health solely because of our natural abilities puts World Athletics on the wrong side of history.”


Semenya had appealed to the tribunal after CAS had rejected the Olympic gold medalist’s attempt to halt new testosterone regulations implemented by World Athletics — then known as the International Association of Athletics Federations.

South Africa’s star runner had initially approached CAS after the IAAF introduced new middle-distance regulations in April 2018. The “eligibility regulations for female classification” restricted the levels of testosterone allowed in women intending to run the 400m, 800m and 1 500m.

Under World Athletics’ new regulations, “difference of sexual development” (DSD) athletes would be forced to lower and maintain their testosterone levels for an extended time. Semenya has routinely stated she will not comply with the new rules and undergo treatment.

“I will continue to fight for the human rights of female athletes, both on the track and off the track, until we can all run free the way we were born,” she vowed after the Swiss ruling. I know what is right and will do all I can to protect basic human rights, for young girls everywhere.”

Semenya’s lawyers said Semenya and her team will continue to explore her options.

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Luke Feltham
Luke Feltham

Luke Feltham runs the Mail & Guardian's sports desk. He was previously the online day editor.

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