Two-time Olympic champion Caster Semenya has lost her long legal battle against athletic rules that limit runners’ naturally high testosterone levels.
- Caster Semenya will not be able to defend his Olympic 800m title in Tokyo after decision
- Swiss Supreme Court says discrimination against Semenya “necessary” to maintain fairness in women’s athletics
- Semenya said she would continue to “protect the human rights of young girls all over the world”
The Swiss Supreme Court said on Tuesday that its judges had dismissed Semenya’s appeal against a ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport last year which upheld rules drafted by the track governing body regarding female riders with differences sexual development (DSD).
The 71-page decision means Semenya cannot defend her Olympic 800-meter title at the Tokyo Games next year – or compete in any top-level competition at distances ranging from 400 meters per mile – unless that she will not agree to reduce her testosterone level through medication or surgery.
The 29-year-old South African has repeatedly said she will not and reiterated her position in a statement through her lawyers on Tuesday.
“I am very disappointed with this decision, but refuse to let World Athletics drug me or prevent me from being who I am,” she said.
The Swiss Federal Court said Semenya’s appeal “essentially alleges a violation of the prohibition on discrimination”.
In a May 2019 verdict, the three sports court judges ruled in a 2: 1 decision that discrimination against Semenya was “necessary, reasonable and proportionate” to maintain fairness in women’s athletics.
Testosterone is a hormone that builds muscle tone and bone mass, and is a doping agent whether injected or ingested.
The panel of five federal judges said on Tuesday it was limited to examining “whether the CAS ruling violates fundamental and widely recognized principles of public order. It does not.”
Semenya’s “guarantee of human dignity” was also not compromised by the CAS decision, the judges ruled.
“The female athletes involved are free to refuse treatment to lower testosterone levels. The ruling is also not intended to question the female gender of the female athletes involved,” the federal court said.
Reacting to the verdict, Semenya said, “I will continue to fight for the human rights of female athletes, both on and off the track, until we can all run freely as we were born.
Although the exact details of Semenya’s condition have never been disclosed since winning the first of her three world titles in 2009 as a teenager, she has higher testosterone levels than the typical female range. .
The Swiss court statement on Tuesday referred to runners with “the genetic variant ’46 XY DSD ‘”.
World Athletics argued that this gave her and other female athletes like herself with DSD disorders and high natural testosterone an unfair advantage.
The rules Semenya has appealed require him to lower his testosterone levels to a level specified by the international athletics body for at least six months before competing.
Athletes have three options to do this: take birth control pills, have testosterone-blocking injections, or have surgery.
Semenya took birth control pills for about five years until the world athletics body, then known as the IAAF, had to suspend its old rules of hyperandrogenism after a CAS appeal by the sprinter. Indian Dutee Chand.
Testifying during his five-day hearing before the CAS in February 2019, Semenya said taking the drug had unwanted side effects, including predisposition to injury.
Tuesday’s federal judgment came more than a year after the 2012 and 2016 Olympic champion lost a previous ruling by the same court.
This July 2019 verdict overturned a temporary ruling that allowed Semenya to briefly compete in the 800-meter at international events – winning a top-level race in Palo Alto, Calif. – without taking anti-testosterone drugs.
It is not known what Semenya will choose to do next. She could compete over 100 or 200 yards or over distances longer than a mile, but she never had the success in those events that she had over two laps.
However, she had already switched her training this year to 200 yards, hinting that she was ready to lose in court.
Greg Nott, Semenya’s longtime lawyer in South Africa, said his international team of lawyers “are reviewing the judgment and options to challenge the findings in European and national courts.”
Any appeal to the European Court of Human Rights would likely not be judged before the opening of the Tokyo Olympics next July.
Tuesday’s judgment also came at a financial cost for Semenya and the South African Athletics Federation, which joined in his appeal. Each was ordered to pay 7,000 Swiss francs ($ 6,051) in court and 8,000 Swiss francs ($ 12,103) for World Athletics legal costs.