(ATR) South African runner Caster Semenya has lost her appeal against world athletics governing body over rules to restrict testosterone levels in female runners.
Semenya could appeal the verdict (SASCOC)
The Court of Arbitration for Sport on Wednesday rejected the two-time Olympic 800m champion’s challenge against the IAAF's new regulations on athletes with differences of sex development (DSD), which were due to be introduced last November.
Semenya, who has the condition hyperandrogenism, and Athletics South Africa said the rules forcing athletes with naturally-occurring high levels of testosterone to lower them through medication were discriminatory, unnecessary, unreliable and disproportionate.
In the legal case, the IAAF had argued that the DSD regulations did not infringe any athlete’s rights, including the right to equal treatment, but instead were a justified and proportionate means of ensuring consistent treatment, and preserving fair and meaningful competition for female runners.
Despite CAS ruling that the DSD regulations are “discriminatory”, the panel added that “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”.
CAS Questions IAAF Rules
But in its 165-page judgment, CAS expressed “some serious concerns as to the future practical application of these DSD regulations”.
• concerns about athletes inadvertently exceeding maximum permitted levels of testosterone and the resulting consequences of unintentional non-compliance;
• difficulties in assessing any significant advantage gained by athletes with higher testosterone levels competing in 1500m and 1 mile events. CAS suggested the IAAF consider deferring application of the DSD rules to these events until more evidence is available;
• The side effects of hormonal treatment, experienced by individual athletes could, with further evidence, demonstrate the practical impossibility of compliance;
Semenya and other athletes with differences of sexual development will have to take medication to suppress testosterone levels to compete in the 400m and 800m at this year’s world championships in Doha. However, they could change to longer distances beyond a mile and still be in compliance with the rules.
Backed by the South African government, Semenya’s legal team is considering appealing the verdict of sport’s highest court. She reacted angrily to the CAS ruling in a statement.
“I know that the IAAF's regulations have always targeted me specifically. 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.”
South African sports minister Tokozile Xasa said she was “disappointed with the judgement” and said the country’s government will continue its battle against IAAF rules impacting Semenya’s athletic career.
"We have always maintained that these regulations trample on the human rights and dignity of Caster Semenya and other women athletes,” she was quoted in South African media. "We will comment further after studying the full judgement.”
She called on Athletics South Africa to lobby other members of the IAAF to oppose the new DSD regulations.
“We too in government will continue to lobby through other international organisations on our opposition to these regulations and to continue to put the necessary pressure on the IAAF to see the impact of these regulations on global human rights tenets and frameworks.”
Rules Impact Doha 2019
The IAAF said the DSD regulations would now come into effect on May 8.
“The IAAF notes the three concerns expressed by the CAS panel as to the fairness of the implementation of the regulations,” it said in a statement promising to keep them “under periodic review”.
World athletics’ governing body then set out the process for high-testosterone athletes who are seeking eligibility for the IAAF World Championships in Doha. These include athletes to undergo a blood sampling to measure their serum testosterone level by May 8, which must show a concentration below 5 nmol/L to be deemed eligible to compete in the worlds.
Svein Arne Hansen, president of European Athletics, welcomed the CAS judgment on Twitter: "I welcome the decision taken by CAS today which ensures governing bodies can continue to protect the female category. This was never about individuals - it's about the principle of fair play and a level playing field for women and girls.”
Reported by Mark Bisson
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