South African Athlete Caster Semenya Loses Appeal over Forced Testosterone Reduction
Last Wednesday, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled that South African track and field athlete Caster Semenya must reduce her naturally high testosterone levels in order to compete in women’s events.
In late April of 2018, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) announced new regulations for athletics with “disorders of sexual differentiation” (DSD), requiring hyperandrogenic female athletes to take testosterone-lowering medication to compete in women’s events. The new policy was set to go in effect on Nov. 1, 2018.
Last June, Semenya announced a legal challenge to the new rule proposed by IAAF and the legal proceedings began this past February.
Since Semenya lost her appeal, the rule will officially go into effect on May 8, 2019.
In the summer of 2015, a similar policy was struck down by the Court in the case of Chand v. AFI & IAAF, ruling the IAAF’s claim that naturally high levels of testosterone in women provided an athletic advantage was unsubstantiated by the evidence they provided.
Semenya has been subjected to the rule for a number of years, taking testosterone-reducing medication that noticeably limited her athletic capabilities. Winning gold several times at the World Champions of years prior, the effects of the medication were incrementally reflected in her times.
The policy was temporarily suspended, granting the IAAF only two years to provide the court with substantial scientific evidence to support their claims. The new regulations, introduced last year, are the products of IAAF-commissioned research, which officially concluded that female athletes with naturally high levels of testosterone have an unfair competitive advantage.
Semenya has long been under scrutiny by the international sports community. In 2009, she was the subject of sex testing after her victories in the 2009 Track and Field World Championships.
The IAAF questioned the quick and significant improvement in her athletic performance and formally launched a year-long investigation, after which Semenya was cleared for future competition. Originally sealed to disclose private and confidential information about her, details of the investigation were leaked to the press, prompting many unverified assumptions about Seminya’s sex and gender identity.
Despite a long, documented history of scrutiny from the international sports community and the public, Semenya has continued to be a successful mid-distance runner. She won gold in the 800-meter dash at the 2012 London Summer Olympics and again the at 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics.
Last Friday, Semenya competed in her last race in Doha, Qatar before the new regulations will officially take effect.
“I know that the IAAF’s regulations have always targeted me specifically,” responded Semenya in reference to the Court’s most recent decision. “For a decade the IAAF has tried to slow me down, but this has actually made me stronger.”
“The decision of the CAS will not hold me back,” she says. “I will once again rise above and continue to inspire young women and athletes in South Africa and around the world.”