Court Rules Against Caster Semenya in Landmark Case Against IAAF

South Africa‘s Caster Semenya lost her appeal against rules designed to lower naturally high levels of testosterone in some female runners on Wednesday, 1 May 2019.

The three-judge panel of the Court of Arbitration for Sport delivered a complex verdict and “dismissed both arbitration requests” from Semenya and the governing body of track and field.

In a landmark judgment, the court said the IAAF’s proposed rules on athletes with “differences of sex development (DSD)” are discriminatory but should be applied.

The judges ruled 2-1 that “on the basis of the evidence submitted by the parties, such discrimination is a necessary, reasonable and proportionate means of achieving the IAAF’s aim of preserving the integrity of female athletics in the Restricted Events.”

Semenya, a two-time Olympic champion in the 800 meters, will now be forced to medicate to suppress her testosterone levels if she wants to defend her world title in September in Doha, Qatar.

“I know that the IAAF’s regulations have always targeted me specifically,” the South African runner said in a statement released by her lawyers. “For a decade the IAAF has tried to slow me down, but this has actually made me stronger. The decision of the CAS 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 28-year-old Semenya also posted a statement on her Twitter account shortly after the verdict was announced, saying “Sometimes it’s better to react with no reaction.”

Semenya’s Response to the judgement

Semenya was travelling to Doha on Wednesday for the first Diamond League track meet of the season, where she is expected to race in the 800 on Friday. The Diamond League is an annual series of meets for the top athletes in the world, and the Doha event is the last one before the new rules apply.

Still, the CAS panel “strongly encouraged” the IAAF to note its concerns when applying the rules, which the judges believe might have to be modified in the future to be fair.

The Monaco-based IAAF said in a statement it was grateful to the court and would apply the rules starting next Wednesday. That gives affected runners wishing to race at the Sept. 28-Oct. 6 world championships one week to begin medicating and submit to a blood test.

That is a “special transitional provision” because the IAAF rules require women to lower their testosterone levels below 5 nanomoles per liter of blood for at least six continuous months to be eligible for top-level events.

The IAAF went into the case with the scientific argument that female runners with high testosterone levels have an unfair advantage in events from 400 meters to the mile.

However, the judges want the IAAF to begin applying the rules only up to the 800 because the evidence was not clear that women with hyperandrogenism have a competitive advantage in the 1,500.

“The CAS Panel suggested that the IAAF consider deferring the application of the DSD Regulations to these events (1,500 and the mile) until more evidence is available,” the court said.

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