South African athlete Caster Semenya celebrates surprise court ruling

olympic great caster semenya south africa testosterone iaaf
Photo: Chell Hill

South African athlete Caster Semenya will be allowed to compete without testosterone-reducing medication after she was granted a temporary legal reprieve.

The two-time Olympic 800 metres champion is hyperandrogenous, which means she has naturally elevated testosterone levels in her body.

Semenya has been challenging new International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) rules that require her to medically suppress her testosterone levels to a typical female range in order to compete.

She took her fight to Switzerland’s Supreme Court last week. Now, the court has temporarily suspended the IAAF rules while the appeal progresses.

The surprise ruling enables the South African runner to compete without medication until at least June 25.

The ruling only affects Semenya, not other athletes with differences in sexual development (DSDs).

“I am thankful to the Swiss judges for this decision,” Semenya said.

“I hope that following my appeal I will once again be able to run free.”

Semenya’s Swiss lawyer Dorothee Schramm welcomed the ruling.

“This is an important case that will have fundamental implications for the human rights of female athletes,” she said.

Caster Semenya disputing IAAF’s finding she has a physical advantage

South Africa’s Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa, supported the decision on Twitter.

“We welcome the decision taken by the Swiss Federal Supreme Court to suspend the implementation of the IAAF’s regulations for athletes with ‘differences of sex development’ pending [Semenya’s] appeal,” he tweeted.

“We will never rest until justice is served.”

Under the new IAAF rules, female athletes like Caster Semenya must reduce their natural testosterone level to five nmol/L or under, double the normal female range of below two nmol/L.

The IAAF rules affect athletes with DSDs competing in events from 400 meters to a mile.

On May 1, Semenya lost an appeal against the rules in the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). The CAS ruled the regulations were necessary to ensure fair competition.

But Semenya has said she will refuse to take the medication. On May 29, she filed the appeal against the CAS ruling in Switzerland’s Federal Supreme Court.

Caster Semenya wants the Swiss court to set aside the CAS ruling.

Her legal team is disputing the IAAF’s findings athletes with DSDs have a physical advantage.

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