Two-time Olympic 800m champion Caster Semenya and her team of lawyers have hit back at rules proposed by the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF), which would oblige the athlete to artificially lower her testosterone levels.
The decorated South African runner appeared at the Court of Lausanne earlier in the week to challenge the rules proposed by the sporting body.
In a statement released by her legal team, it said: “The IAAF’s regulations do not empower anyone. Rather, they represent yet another flawed and hurtful attempt to police the sex of female athletes.
“Ms Semenya’s courage and perseverance in her fight to run free is an inspiration to young athletes in her home country of South Africa and around the globe.”
As part of the legal statement, Semenya’s lawyer Gregory Nott commented: “She and other women affected by the regulations should be permitted to compete in the female category without discrimination” and that female athletes should be “celebrated for their natural talents as are all other athletes with genetic variations.”
Semenya is challenging the IAAF’s revised eligibility criteria for female athletes, which has been dubbed a landmark case for intersex and transgender women in all sports.
The track and field body has proposed rules which are intended to create a “level playing field” for other female runners.
The new rules would require athletes with a “difference of sexual development” (DSD) to consume testosterone suppressants, if they are to continue competing. This would inevitably hinder the performance of athletes such as Semenya immensely.
The IAAF recently emphasised: “If a DSD athlete has testes and male levels of testosterone, they get the same increases in bone and muscle size and strength and increases in haemoglobin that a male gets when they go through puberty, which is what gives men such a performance advantage over women.”
With so much at stake in this case, it is hardly surprising that the two parties have been publicly slating one another over the last week.
On Monday, the IAAF released a press statement which named five of the expert witnesses it would be calling upon to support its legal case, including three professors of endocrinology, a transgender medical physicist and a sports law expert among those named.
The decision to name has been labelled as a ‘clear breach’ of the confidentiality rules put in place by the Court of Arbitration in Sport (CAS) in an attempt to “influence public opinion.”
In response, the olympian’s legal team released a list of its own expert witnesses who will take the stand in Lausanne this week, including: Professor Veronica Gomez-Lobo, professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Georgetown University in the United States.
The South African government has weighed in on the case with Thokozile Xasa, the South Africa sports minister coming out in support of her compatriot. The minister stated that the rules have been specifically targeted towards Semenya and has dubbed them a “gross violation” of her human rights.
Xasa added: “What’s at stake here is far more than the right to participate in a sport. Women’s bodies, their wellbeing, their ability to earn a livelihood, their very identity, their privacy and sense of safety and belonging in the world, are being questioned. This is a gross violation of internationally accepted standards of human rights law.”
InsiderInsight : This case, regardless of its outcome, will be a landmark moment for the intersex, transgender and women’s athletic communities. Semenya’s case highlights the disparities in the treatment of athletes with DSD, and worryingly, this is not the first case of its kind.
The IOC has stated that it will deem what are ‘acceptable’ levels of testosterone for trans athletes to compete in international competitions following the outcome of this case – however, this begs the issue that hyperandrogynous athletes are not transgender, yet will potentially be treated in the same manner.