South African Olympic champion Caster Semenya (center) and her lawyer Gregory Nott (right) arrive for a hearing before the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland in February.

Harold Cunningham / AFP / Getty Images


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Harold Cunningham / AFP / Getty Images


South African Olympic champion Caster Semenya (center) and her lawyer Gregory Nott (right) arrive for a hearing before the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland in February.

Harold Cunningham / AFP / Getty Images

The highest sporting court has ruled that regulations adopted by the international athletics governing body regarding women with high testosterone levels are discriminatory but necessary to ensure fair competition in women’s athletics.

South African athletics star Caster Semenya and Athletics South Africa have asked the Court of Arbitration for Sport to overturn the International Association of Athletics Federations rules regarding female athletes with high testosterone levels.

The IAAF regulations in question require that female athletes with testosterone levels in the male range reduce their natural testosterone levels and maintain this reduced level for at least six months to be eligible to participate in certain athletic events. in international competition. The IAAF suggests that this reduction be done by taking hormonal contraceptives, and stresses that surgical changes are not necessary.

One of the events affected by the rule is the 800-meter race, which Semenya won at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.

In one summary of its decision, the tribunal wrote that its panel concluded that the relevant IAAF regulations are discriminatory because they impose differential treatment based on protected characteristics in that they “establish restrictions that target a subset of the female / intersex athlete population and impose no equivalent restrictions on male athletes. “

However, the panel wrote, the IAAF argued that “if the purpose of the female category is to prevent athletes who do not have this testosterone-derived advantage from having to compete against athletes who have this testosterone-derived advantage. testosterone derivative advantage, then it is necessarily ‘the beating category’ to allow anyone with that testosterone derivative advantage to compete in that category. ”The majority of the arbitration panel accepted this logic.

The IAAF said in a report that she is “grateful” for the decision “and welcomes the fact that the Regulations have been seen as a necessary, reasonable and proportionate means to achieve the legitimate objective of the IAAF of preserving the integrity of women’s athletics” in the events covered by the regulations.

In a statement released to The Associated Press and other media outlets, Semenya wrote: “I know the IAAF regulations have always targeted me specifically. For a decade the IAAF tried to slow me down, but it actually made me stronger. The CAS decision will not hold me back. I will once again rise above and continue to inspire young women and athletes in South Africa and around the world.

The South African Sports Confederation and the Olympic Committee criticized the decision. “We maintain that the rules are poorly thought out and will be a source of distress for targeted female athletes,” he said, according to the AP.

The court expressed concerns about how the regulations will work in practice, including the possibility that affected athletes will be unable to maintain a natural level of testosterone below the required level on a consistent basis.

And the court noted how difficult the case was, involving “a complex collision of scientific, ethical and legal puzzles.”

The case involves incompatible and competing rights, the court wrote: “Put simply, on the one hand, the right of every athlete to participate in sport, to have their sex and gender identity respected and to be free from any form of discrimination.On the other hand, do female athletes, who are biologically disadvantaged compared to male athletes, have the right to compete with other female athletes and enjoy the benefits of athletic success? . accepted, necessary binary division of athletics into men’s and women’s events, while there is no such binary division of athletes. “

The move means Semenya would have to lower her testosterone levels to compete in upcoming competitions, including the world championships in September.