Caster Semenya loses landmark CAS appeal case


South Africa's double Olympic champion Caster Semenya acknowledges a crowd after winning the 5,000m gold ...
South Africa's double Olympic champion Caster Semenya acknowledges a crowd after winning the 5,000m gold at South African Championships in Germiston, South Africa, April 25, 2019. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

In Summary

  • Caster Semenya will be forced to take hormone medication if she is to defend her Olympic 800m title after losing her bid to overturn controversial athletics testosterone regulations in a landmark decision
  • The Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS) rejected the South African's challenge against the IAAF's new rules on Wednesday but said it had "serious concerns as to the future practical application" of the new rules

Olympic 800-metres champion Caster Semenya has had an appeal dismissed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to halt the introduction of regulations to limit testosterone in female athletes with differences in sexual development (DSDs).

CAS ruled on Wednesday that the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) regulations are needed to ensure fair competition between athletes who compete in events ranging from 400-metres to a mile, previously calling the hearing one of the most important ever to appear before the court.

It means that Semenya and other affected athletes hoping to compete at the World Championships in Doha in September would have to start taking medication to lower their testosterone level to below the required five (5) nmol/L within one week.

It is a special concession made by the IAAF due to the length of time it has taken CAS to reach a verdict. However, in future athletes will be required to have reduced their blood testosterone level to below the stipulated concentration for a period of six months before they can compete.

According to a media release here on Wednesday, “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.

“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”.”

However, in a 165-page award, the CAS Panel expressed some serious concerns as to the future practical application of these DSD Regulations.

The case is likely have wide-reaching consequences, not just for the future of athletics, but all women’s sport, and has split opinion around the globe.

The IAAF believe the regulations are necessary to “preserve fair competition in the female category”, and have received a large amount of support from current and former athletes.

But the governing body has also come in for criticism from human rights organisations over their wish to medically alter naturally produced levels of testosterone, with the United Nations Human Rights Council adopting a resolution in support of Semenya in March.

The South African will be the most high-profile athlete to be affected, but others include 2018 Olympic silver medallist in the 800-metres, Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi.

Semenya took potential steps to reinvent her career last week when she won the 5,000-metres at the South African Athletics Championships in a modest time of 16:05.97, an event that would allow her to compete outside of the IAAF regulations.

Other sporting bodies are believed to have kept a close eye on the CAS case and with the precedent in place, may now set their own parameters for participation by DSD and transgender athletes in their individual codes.

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