South African 800m Olympic champion Caster Semenya plans to appeal after losing her landmark case against athletics governing body, IAAF, in a move that could end her athletic career. elite.
The court’s ruling for sport means Semenya, who has not been beaten in the 800m since 2015, will need to take medication to significantly lower her testosterone if she is to compete internationally in events between 400m and a mile.
Sports scientist Ross Tucker, who was part of Semenya’s team of experts at Cas, believes it will mean the South African could run the 800m in about seven seconds slower – taking her from a World Thresher at one also raced at this event. However, all indications are that she may decide to move to 5,000m, where the new IAAF rules for athletes with Differences in Sexual Development (DSD) do not apply.
The surprise verdict was announced by the court of arbitration for sport on Wednesday after three arbitrators spent more than two months deliberating on the complex and highly controversial case.
In announcing his decision, Cas acknowledged that the IAAF’s policy was “discriminatory” against athletes with Differentiated Sexual Development (DSD) like 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 “necessary, reasonable and proportionate” to ensure fair competition in women’s sport.
This means that all DSD athletes, who are usually born with internal testes, will need to reduce their testosterone to less than five nmol / L for at least six months if they are to compete internationally in all distances from 400m to one. mile. The IAAF, which welcomed the news, said its policy would go into effect on May 8.
Semenya, who has long argued that her unique genetic gifts should be celebrated and not regulated, said she will not give up her fight and believes the DSD regulations will one day be overturned.
“I know the IAAF regulations have always targeted me specifically,” she added. “For a decade the IAAF tried to slow me down, but it actually made me stronger. The decision of the Case 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.
Explaining his verdict, Cas said Semenya’s team were unable to prove the IAAF’s policy was “invalid” during the five-day court hearing in February. Basically, he upheld a rule that discrimination in sport is legal as long as it is justified.
As he explained in a statement: “The panel found that the DSD regulations are discriminatory but that, based on the evidence submitted by the parties, such discrimination is a necessary, reasonable and proportionate means to achieve the objective. IAAF to preserve the integrity of women’s athletics in restricted events.
However, in its 165-page decision, the Cas panel expressed “serious concerns” about the fair application of the DSD regulations. He also admitted that there could be problems in three other areas:
Difficulties for athletes to implement and comply with DSD regulations due to frequent medication use
The lack of concrete evidence supporting the inclusion of certain events in the DSD regulations, including the 1500m and the 1 mile
The potentially negative and harmful side effects of hormone therapy for DSD athletes.
On health issues, Cas went even further, saying that further research into the effects of hormone therapy could “demonstrate the practical impossibility of complying, which could, in turn, lead to a different conclusion as to the effect of hormone therapy. proportionality of DSD regulations ”.
A spokesperson for Semenya urged the IAAF to heed Cas’s concerns and postpone its plan to introduce DSD regulations until next week. “Ms. Semenya believes that the dissenting case arbitrator will prove to be correct and that the DSD rules will be overturned,” the spokesperson added.
“In the meantime, Ms. Semenya believes that it is irresponsible of the IAAF to proceed with the implementation of the DSD regulations in circumstances where the Cas decision clearly shows that there are serious problems with the regulations.”
Semenya had taken the IAAF to court, arguing that its policies were discriminatory, unfair and potentially dangerous to health. However, during the five-day hearing last month, the IAAF maintained that its policy is only to create a level playing field for all women, so that success depends on talent and hard work. A key part of his argument was that over 99% of women have around 0.12-1.79 nm3ol / L of testosterone in their bodies – while DSDs like Semenya are in the male range of 7.7-29, 4 nmol / L.
The IAAF’s point of view was then supported by senior sports scientist John Brewer, professor of applied sports science at Buckinghamshire New University. “Although this decision is a sad result for Caster Semenya, it is not unexpected,” he added. “Testosterone is a growth hormone, which is why it is on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of banned drugs, and we know that at high levels testosterone improves performance.
“It is clear that no one wants to discriminate against anyone who wants to play sports. But without this decision, we would have been in a position where women with normal testosterone levels would have a performance disadvantage compared to those with higher testosterone levels.
Athletics South Africa, which had strongly supported Semenya in her case, said she was “in shock at how a highly regarded body like Cas could endorse the discrimination without flinching.”
“Cas saw fit to open the wounds of apartheid – a system of discrimination condemned by the whole world as a crime against humanity,” he added. “That Cas not only tolerates discrimination, but also strives to justify it, only undermines the integrity that is entrusted to this body. We think their decision is shameful.