‘They will not drug me’: Athlete Caster Semenya appeals testosterone ruling

athlete caster semenya paris 2018
Photo: Yann Caradec/Flickr

South African athlete Caster Semenya has filed an appeal challenging rules requiring her to medically lower her natural testosterone to compete.

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

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) introduced the rules requiring women competing in women’s sports to clear a testosterone threshold.

As a result, Semenya and other athletes with differences in sexual development (DSDs) must take medication reducing their testosterone levels to a typical female range.

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 Wednesday (May 29), the athlete filed an appeal against the CAS ruling in Switzerland’s Federal Supreme Court.

“I am a woman and I am a world-class athlete,” she said in a statement.

“The IAAF will not drug me or stop me from being who I am.”

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.

The CAS ruling did not consider medical protocols and the uncertain health consequences of the medication, the statement said.

Lawyer Dr Dorothee Schramm, who is leading the appeal, said: “The IAAF regulations violate the most fundamental principles of Swiss public policy.

“In the race for justice, human rights must win over sporting interests.”

World Medical Association rejects testosterone rules

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.

Intersex advocates have criticised the CAS’ decision to uphold the IAAF regulations as “not only discriminatory, but also dangerous.”

Tony Briffa, chair of advocacy group ILGA World’s Intersex Steering Committee, said Caster Semenya was “born and raised as female”.

“She has never taken any performance enhancing substances, and forcing her to undergo medical intervention to allow her to compete is humiliating, unnecessary, unfair, dangerous and contrary to her human rights,” Briffa said.

“The decision also perpetuates the discrimination, forced medical intervention, stigma and injustice that many people born with variations of sex characteristics have been subjected to for decades.”

The IAAF’s policy has been criticised by peak medical body the World Medical Association. In April, the WMA urged doctors around the world to refuse to take part in the system of classifying female athletes.

The WMA called for the withdrawal of the regulations on the basis they “constitute a flagrant discrimination based on the genetic variation of female athletes and are contrary to international medical ethics and human rights standards.”

“They are based on weak evidence from a single study, which is currently being widely debated by the scientific community,” WMA President Dr Leonid Eidelman said.

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