Caster Semenya should be angry, but she isn’t. As time is running out towards the Tokyo Olympics, the South African, like her rivals, is expected to train for a third consecutive gold medal.
Instead, the 30-year-old, who has fought a wave of prejudice and stigma throughout her life, desperately awaits news from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which, in her opinion, is turn, could convince World Athletics that being asked to take medication may not be the most humane way to deal with a woman with a congenital disease, some believe it gives her an unfair advantage.
Semenya’s “crime” – besides dominating on the track – is that she is an athlete with differences in sexual development, a condition that leads to high levels of testosterone in the body. This led the athletics governing body to create a ruling in 2018, following its rapid rise to fame, which barred women with a similar illness from competing internationally between 400m and races. mile long, unless taking medication – one option is to take a daily oral contraceptive. pill – is taken. Needless to say, Semenya will not stay on this path.
“It takes the soul out of my body,” she told the Guardian by phone from South Africa. “They want me to take my own system apart. I am not sick. I don’t need drugs. I will never do that. “
As it stands, it seems highly unlikely that Semenya will line up for the 800m this summer, even if his case is decided favorably. The ECHR can only recommend that World Athletics President Sebastian Coe change course. No hand will be forced.
“The message is very simple,” says Semenya. “As a man he should examine his [FORMER]his wife’s eyes and say to her, “I gave you children. If someone treated our children this way, what would your reaction be? He has to think as a human, not as the president of an organization.
Semenya is classified as an athlete with Differences in Sexual Development (DSD). The IAAF, as World Athletics was then called, banned these athletes from competing in women’s sport in 2018, a decision upheld both by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Case) in May 2019 and by an appeals court. later. This prevented Semenya from defending her title as the world champion in Doha and was a blow.
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Appearing in the 5,000m is an option for Semenya, although the weather is not on its side. She triumphed at the South African National Championships last week, clocking 15 minutes 52 seconds – 42 seconds before the Olympic qualifying standard of 15:10.
“I can run until I’m 40 and at the moment I’m still fast enough to try and improve,” she said, before insisting that the next world championships in 2023 are a realistic goal for me. the 5,000 m.
However, although the 200m is ruled out, will its flagship event, the 800m, be an interested spectator if the worst were to happen? The answer is yes, but through skeptical eyes. “I’ll always watch the 800m,” said Semenya, who set a personal best 1: 54.25 in 2018. “I want to see if these girls are capable of running what I’m doing. But will they be less than 1.55? Go on.”
The wait, the arguments, the accusations would be enough to keep many from sport. Semenya, however, is calm. “I trained like a slave to be the tallest,” she says. “I saw Usain Bolt train. His training was insane and I am the same. My high testosterone levels is something I was born with, it is a disorder. That doesn’t make me the best, however. This is where training and knowledge come in.
“Michael Phelps’ arms are wide enough for him to do whatever he wants. Swimmers’ lungs are different from those of others. Basketball players like LeBron James are great. If all great players are banned from playing, will basketball be the same? Usain has incredible muscle fibers. Will they also stop it? My organs may be different and I may have a deep voice, but I am female.
In announcing its decision, the court acknowledged that IAAF policy was “discriminatory” against athletes with DSD such as Semenya. However, two of the three referees accepted the IAAF’s argument that high testosterone in female athletes confers significant benefits in height, strength and power from puberty, and said that the policy was therefore “necessary, reasonable and proportionate” to ensure fair competition in women’s sport.
Semenya believes her legacy remains and gets stronger with every nod from the sports powerbrokers. She says she is fighting for the Caster Semenyas of tomorrow, for those who have no voice.
She enjoys working and helping children in Pretoria, Polokwane and Soweto, while another passion is her running club, Masai, which she runs with his wife, Violet Raseboya. The Caster Semenya Foundation, established in 2016 with a focus on education, will also keep it active for years to come.
“It’s very simple,” she said. “You have to accept yourself, appreciate yourself and show yourself to the world. You need hope for life. You have to be positive. “
Retirement, when it comes, doesn’t bother her. She plans to run longer distances for at least 10 years, but the impact on the body of the 200m attempt, for example, won’t do much for her longevity. His presence on the track, however, will remain.
“I achieved my goals,” she says. “Of course I am an Olympic champion. I am a world champion and have won major titles. So right now we are trying to work things out for future generations because they are killing 800 million women.
“They kill sport. People want to see amazing performances and if I was a leader I would give people what they want. Now Seb Coe is doing everything for him. He has to act in the best interests of all athletes, but now he wants to categorize us. He sees a young athlete, the one the organization tried to stop, and made him political. Just accept and enjoy. Its job is to fight corruption.
Semenya, in collaboration with beauty brand Lux, has launched a public campaign called Born This Way, which urges women to “unapologetically express their beauty and femininity”. A petition with the hashtag #IStandWithCaster has also been launched in hopes of getting Coe’s mind moving.
Whatever happens, she says she will try to continue to fight against prejudice and injustice. “Some children I have met have attempted suicide, others are survivors,” she says. “They can’t accept who they are. When you give birth to a child, you cannot choose your path. Life is not an act.
She has never met Coe – and has no intention of doing so – yet the conversation in her mind would aim to strike the Englishman deep inside him. Semenya feels like she has been targeted by World Athletics. For her, the instantaneous success that won her gold in London 2012 and then in Rio four years later fueled unfair accusations and recriminations.
“That’s it,” she says when asked about the reasons for the problems she has encountered over the years. “I am a young black African. I know where I come from.
World Athletics, in response to Semenya’s comments, said it “rejects any claim that biological boundaries are based on race or gender stereotypes.”
The Tokyo Games, if they go, may not feature one of South Africa’s most famous athletes, but the force for change is already underway. Semenya has met many women with a condition similar to hers – “I can just tell when I see them” – and knows, unlike her, that they don’t have the platform to express their anguish.
“The regulations are not aimed at any particular athlete, but are designed to preserve the integrity of the women’s category,” said World Athletics, who highlighted the fact that in the 800m final at the 2019 World Championships in Doha, Halimah Nakaayi of Uganda won gold by beating three other African women in the final. “We have seen over a decade and more of research that approximately 7.1 out of 1,000 elite female athletes in our sport are DSD athletes with very high testosterone levels in men.”
Nonetheless, Semenya lights up throughout life. She recently became a mother – her daughter’s name remains a closely guarded secret for now – but thoughts quickly turn to how to explain this sporting saga when the time comes. “It will be difficult,” she said. “She’ll be confused and think how can a person try to cut someone’s career down?”
It is clear that Semenya thinks that many have tried, but she will not take it easy. And why should she? – Guardian