Semenya confirms she’s taking testosterone battle to European Court of Human Rights

Caster Semenya has not given up on her fight against World Athletics regulations and will now approach the European Court of Human Rights. The Olympic gold medallist has endured a fraught legal gauntlet thus far, having had her appeals rejected by multiple institutions. 

In a parliamentary portfolio committee meeting on Tuesday, Athletics South Africa indicated its intent to approach the court to fight for its star athlete’s participation at the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games. Semenya’s legal team confirmed the move on Thursday afternoon.

“I hope the European court will put an end to the longstanding human-rights violations by World Athletics against women athletes,” she said in a statement. 

“All we ask is to be allowed to run free, for once and for all, as the strong and fearless women we are and have always been.”  

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This latest attempt follows a series of setbacks that appeared to have effectively ended Semenya’s chances of competing in her preferred events. In September, a Swiss federal tribunal 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.”

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.

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The middle-distance runner had initially approached CAS after World Athletics introduced new middle-distance regulations in April 2018. The “eligibility regulations for female classification” restricted testosterone levels allowed in women intending to run the 400m, 800m and 1 500m races.

Under World Athletics’ new regulations, “difference of sexual development”, 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.

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Luke Feltham

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

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