CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) – This could be the case for Caster Semenya and the Olympics.

Forced out of her favorite race by World Athletics testosterone rules, the two-time Olympic 800-meter champion belatedly tried to qualify for Tokyo in the 5,000 meters, an event unaffected by hormonal regulation. She came up short.

Now 30, Semenya’s hopes of returning to the Olympics are dwindling.

The South African once said she wanted to compete in track events until she was 40. Now his future ambitions hinge on a final, long-term legal appeal of the testosterone rules or transforming the world’s dominant middle distance runner into a long distance athlete. It’s going to be hard for her.

Semenya is perhaps the most controversial athlete in track and field over the past decade. If there aren’t any more appearances on the bigger stage, it’s a career like no other. In 12 years at the top, Semenya has won two Olympic gold medals and three world championship titles, but his success is due to near constant interference from the track authorities. She only competed without restrictions of one type or another for three of those 12 years.

WHY CANNOT SEMENYA DEFEND ITS TITLE 800 IN TOKYO?

In 2018, the governing body of world athletics introduced rules it says are aimed at female athletes with conditions called differences in sexual development, or DSD. The key to World Athletics is that these athletes have higher testosterone levels than the typical female range. The track body contends that this gives them an unfair advantage. Semenya is the most prominent athlete affected by the settlement, but not the only one.

The rules require Semenya to artificially lower her testosterone levels – either by taking birth control pills daily, having hormone-blocking injections, or undergoing surgery – to be allowed to run in races from 400 meters to a mile. Semenya simply refused to do so, pointing out the irony that in a sport where doping is such a scourge, authorities want her to dope to be eligible for the Olympics.

“Why am I going to take drugs? Semenya said in 2019. “I am a pure athlete. I am not cheating. They should focus on doping, not on us.

BUT IT CAN RUN THE 5,000?

Yes. Strangely, World Athletics decided to only enforce the testosterone rules for the 400-meter to one-mile track events, sparking criticism from Semenya’s camp that the rules were specifically designed to target her due to her dominance.

This means that Semenya can compete in 100 and 200 meter and long distance races without lowering her testosterone levels. Events on the ground are also not regulated. After a brief stint in the 200m, Semenya tried to qualify for Tokyo over 5,000m, competing in races in Pretoria and Durban in South Africa and, more recently, at international meets in Germany and Belgium on last month. She never came within 20 seconds of the Olympic qualifying mark.

THE COURT BATTLE

Semenya continues to fight testosterone regulations in court. She has launched three legal appeals against the rules, calling them unfair and discriminatory, and seems determined to see her legal fight through. After failing on appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and the Swiss Supreme Court, Semenya has now filed an appeal with the European Court of Human Rights.

Semenya’s first appeal to the highest sports court revealed a bitter battle between her and the track authorities, centered on World Athletics’ claim during the closed hearing that she was “biologically of sex. male”. Semenya angrily refuted this, having been identified as female at birth and identified as female all her life. She called the claim “deeply hurtful”.

OTHER AFFECTED ATHLETES

The problem will not go away with Semenya. Just this week, two 18-year-old Namibian athletes were banned from competing in the 400 meters at the Tokyo Olympics after undergoing medical tests and it was discovered that they had high levels of natural testosterone. One of them, Christine Mboma, is the holder of the under-20 world record.

The two runners who finished second and third behind Semenya at the 2016 Olympics, Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi and Margaret Wambui of Kenya, have publicly stated that they are also affected by the testosterone regulations and have also been banned from the 800, unless they undergo a medical examination. intervention. Niyonsaba qualified for the 5,000-meter Olympics.

AND NOW?

Semenya has made it clear that the rules will not force her off the track and that she will continue to run and enjoy the sport, even if she cannot compete in the bigger events.

“Now it’s about having fun,” she said when meeting in South Africa in April. “We did everything we wanted, all the major titles, inspiring young people. “

“For me, it’s not about being at the Olympics,” she said. “It’s about being healthy, having a good time and being on the pitch the longest.”

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