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Semenya vows 'discriminatory' testosterone ruling will not stop her fight

 

Caster Semenya at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio
Caster Semenya at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio
Caster Semenya outside the Court of Arbitration
General Secretary Matthieu Reeb outlined yesterday’s judgement

By Matt Slater

Caster Semenya insists she will not be slowed down or held back after losing her legal battle with athletics' world governing body over its controversial eligibility rules concerning testosterone levels in female runners.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled on Wednesday that the regulations restricting testosterone levels in female athletes in selected events, were "discriminatory" but "necessary".

As a result, two-time Olympic 800m champion Semenya will have to take testosterone-suppressing medication.

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has given her, and other athletes with naturally-occurring high levels of testosterone, a week to reduce their levels of the hormone to within the required limit if she wants to be eligible to defend her world title in Doha in October.

Semenya said 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."

Semenya is considering whether to appeal against the decision.

A statement issued on her behalf said "her unique genetic gift should be celebrated, not regulated". It added that she believes the regulations will be overturned.

The 28-year-old, who has one of the various genetic conditions collectively known as differences or disorders of sex development (DSD), and Athletics South Africa had launched a legal challenge to the rules, which concern athletes competing in events from the 400m to the mile, claiming they were unlawful.

But the CAS commented in their own statement: "By majority, the CAS panel has dismissed the requests for arbitration considering that the claimants were unable to establish that the DSD regulations were 'invalid'.

"The panel found that the DSD regulations are discriminatory, but the majority of the panel found 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 has been the subject of intense scrutiny ever since she burst onto the scene at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin, where she won the first of her three world titles.

Aged just 18, she achieved that feat despite the emotional strain caused by international media speculation about a gender verification test following complaints from rivals about her muscular build.

However, despite the award in favour of the IAAF, CAS said its panel "expressed some serious concerns as to the future practical application" of the DSD regulations.

CAS said that its decision could "change in the future unless constant attention is paid to the fairness of how the regulations are implemented".

It highlighted the following three key issues:

• The panel "expressed its concern as to an athlete's potential inability to remain in compliance with the DSD regulations in periods of full compliance with treatment protocols, and, more specifically, the resulting consequences of unintentional non-compliance";

• It also suggested the IAAF "consider deferring the application of the DSD regulations" to the 1500m and mile because of the current lack of "concrete evidence of actual (in contrast to theoretical) significant athletic advantage" in these events;

• And it added "the side effects of hormonal treatment, experienced by individual athletes could, with further evidence, demonstrate the practical impossibility of compliance which could, in turn, lead to a different conclusion as to the proportionality of the DSD regulations".

The IAAF said it was "grateful" to the CAS for its judgement and was "pleased" its regulations had been upheld.

It said the regulations would be coming into effect next Wednesday, May 8.

Reaction to the Semenya verdict

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA (18-time Grand Slam tennis champion): "The verdict against Semenya is dreadfully unfair to her and wrong in principle. She has done nothing wrong and it is awful that she will now have to take drugs to be able to compete. General rules should not be made from exceptional cases, and the question of transgender athletes remains unresolved."

BILLIE JEAN KING (39-time Grand Slam tennis champion): "I am disappointed by today's decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sports, which will prevent Caster Semenya from competing as her authentic self. Caster Semenya, I stand with you."

CHRIS MOSIER (US transgender triathlete): "The Caster Semenya decision governing natural testosterone levels continues the practice of intrusive oversight and judging of women's bodies in sport - with a specific target on black and brown bodies and anyone whose gender presentation is masculine of centre."

SINEAD O'CARROLL (former camogie player): "I really don't like seeing the arguments for 'the greater good of women's sport' and 'we need to protect women's sport' from people I know don't care about women's sport."

MICHAEL JOHNSON (four-time Olympic gold medal-winning sprinter): "At the end of the day the IAAF has to make a decision on the line that's drawn between female and male in the categories. It's no fault of hers, but now she has to make a decision to either start taking the medication or not be allowed to compete. I think the decision was based on the fairness of sport so there's a level playing field for all of the athletes in any given race."

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