The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled Wednesday that Caster Semenya, a two-time Olympic champion and the subject of one of the biggest controversies the track and field world has seen, will have to take medications that suppress her testosterone output to continue competing at the sport’s highest levels.
Semenya had appealed to the court, challenging a controversial International Association of Athletics Federations rule targeting women who naturally produce high levels of testosterone.
By a 2-1 margin, a panel of three arbitrators sided with the IAAF, allowing the sport’s international governing body to maintain its restrictions on athletes such as Semenya, a female competitor who is believed to have an intersex condition that causes her body to naturally produce testosterone at levels much higher than most women. In issuing its decision, the court agreed that the IAAF rules are discriminatory in nature, “but the majority of the Panel found that, on the basis of the evidence submitted by the parties, such discrimination is a necessary, reasonable and proportionate means of achieving the IAAF’s aim of preserving the integrity of female athletics,” the court said in its executive summary.
Semenya still can appeal to the Swiss Federal Tribunal within the next 30 days. If she chooses to compete in the world championships, which begin in September in Doha, Semenya must submit a valid sample with acceptable testosterone levels within the next week. While the IAAF rule applies to the 400-, 800-, and 1,500-meter events — Semenya’s primary races — the CAS judges say the IAAF should not yet apply the rules to the 1,500 “until more evidence is available.”
Several other prominent athletes, including Billie Jean King and soccer star Abby Wambach, expressed their support for Semenya on Wednesday. Martina Navratilova called the CAS decision “dreadfully unfair to her and wrong in principle.”
“She has done nothing wrong, and it is awful that she will now have to take drugs to be able to compete,” the retired tennis star said. “General rules should not be made from exceptional cases and the question of transgender athletes remains unresolved.”
Semenya has said little publicly about her condition but in protesting the matter to CAS, she issued a statement, saying, “I am very upset that I have been pushed into the public spotlight again. I don’t like talking about this new rule. I just want to run naturally, the way I was born.”
Her legal team characterized the rule as “discriminatory, irrational, unjustifiable,” and Semenya challenged the IAAF on multiple grounds, saying the organization’s rules “continue the offensive practice of intrusive surveillance and judging of women’s bodies which has historically haunted women’s sports.” Read more via Washington Post