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Which way Semenya?

Semenya to know fate on Wednesday

In Summary

•The IAAF wants the South African and other female athletes with differences of sexual development (DSD) to take testosterone blockers.

• Semenya’s dominance of the middle distances has been labelled unfair by many of her competitors but the proposed restrictions have also been branded as discriminatory.

Caster Semenya of South Africa celebrates winning gold during the women's 800m at the 2016 Rio Olympics
Caster Semenya of South Africa celebrates winning gold during the women's 800m at the 2016 Rio Olympics
Image: REUTERS

The decision on Caster Semenya’s challenge to continue competing without any restrictions will be announced by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) at 1100 GMT on Wednesday.

The double Olympic 800m champion is challenging the sport’s governing body, International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), over its decision to restrict testosterone levels in female runners.

The IAAF wants the South African and other female athletes with differences of sexual development (DSD) to take testosterone blockers. Under the new rules, which will apply to women events between 400 metres to the mile, athletes classed as having DSDs must reduce their blood testosterone level to below five (5) nmol/L for a period of six months before they can compete. They must then maintain it below that level continuously.

Semenya, 28, has been waiting since February following her appeal against an IAAF regulation, which said female athletes classed as having DSDs gain an unfair advantage due to their higher testosterone levels.

Testosterone is a hormone that increases muscle mass, strength and haemoglobin - which affects endurance. CAS had been due to announce its decision in March but postponed it several times.

Semenya’s dominance of the middle distances has been labelled unfair by many of her competitors but the proposed restrictions have also been branded as discriminatory. Several expert witnesses were called by both sides during a five-day hearing presided by three judges at CAS’s headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland in February.

Semenya won 1,500m and 5,000m golds at the South African Athletics Championships over the past few days. Should her appeal be unsuccessful, Semenya would have to meet the IAAF requirements to keep running in the 800 and 1500 metres, but they would not apply were she to step up to 5,000.

Last month, Semenya said in a statement released through her lawyers that she wanted to differentiate her case from those of transgender athletes who were born male. “Ms Semenya is a woman. There is no debate or question about this and the IAAF does not dispute this,” the statement said.

“She was born a woman, raised a woman, socialised as a woman and has competed as a woman her entire life.

“Ms Semenya does not wish to undergo medical intervention to change who she is and how she was born. She wants to compete naturally.”

 

The IAAF has previously said it is confident of the legal, scientific and ethical basis for the regulations and expects CAS to reject Semenya’s appeal.