CAS decision ‘will not hold me back,’ says Caster Semenya after losing case over IAAF’s testosterone limiting rule
The Court of Arbitration for Sport dismissed on Wednesday petitions, including Olympian track athlete Caster Semenya’s, which challenged the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification (Athletes with Differences of Sex Development), also called DSD Regulations.
Semenya and the Athletics South Africa had requested that the regulations be declared invalid, because they were discriminatory, unnecessary and disproportionate. The IAAF contended that the regulations did not infringe on athlete’s rights, and were a justified means of preserving fair and meaningful competition within the female classification.
DSD is a term used to describe a number of characteristics that do not fall within the binary categories of male and female sex characteristics, including chromosomal patterns and hormone levels.
A statement released by the 28-year-old South African athlete’s legal team stated, “Caster Semenya is pleased that a unanimous CAS Panel of three arbitrators confirmed that the IAAF’s DSD Regulations are in fact discriminatory against certain women. Ms Semenya is, however, disappointed that two of the three arbitrators concluded that such targeted discrimination is necessary. Ms Semenya is reviewing the decision with her legal team and considering whether to file an appeal.”
“Women with differences in sexual development have genetic variations that are conceptually no different than other genetic variations that are celebrated in sport. The IAAF’s basis for discriminating against these women is their natural genetic variations,” it added.
Simply put, the global body’s rules prescribing a limit of how much naturally-occurring testosterone should exist in female athletes who run between 800m to 1 mile track events, stays. As per the rules, any female athlete with hormone levels higher than the prescribed limit will need to undergo medication, if she wishes to participate in international competitions.
“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 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 Restricted Events,” a CAS release on the judgment, read.
Semenya whose 2009 IAAF World Championship win came under a cloud after a blood test found that the level of naturally-occurring testosterone in her body was higher than the prescribed limit at the time, has been fighting this rule since it was first announced.
“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,” she said in the statement.
In 2015, IAAF’s “Hyperandrogenism Regulations” — as the rule was then termed —was cancelled on account of Indian athlete Dutee Chand, who was dropped from an international competition after a surprise blood test revealed high testosterone levels.
Chand challenged the rule, which at that time, applied to all female athletes (irrespective of the distance category that they ran in), and won. This led the IAAF to suspend the rules, and come up with a new set of regulations that restricted the testosterone level to only 800m to 1 mile categories.
“The athletes that I have worked with, in the past decade, who are directly affected by this regulation, are extremely strong women, and I derive my strength from them. It is important to know that all the members of the arbitration panel agreed unanimously that these rules are discriminatory. They also expressed serious concern about whether at all it is possible to implement these regulations. On the basis of my experience of working in national level, I strongly believe that the regulations are impracticable,” said Payoshni Mitra, an athletes’ rights activist and Research Consultant, who was one of the 10 experts who testified for Semenya.
The CAS also expressed “serious concern” as to the future practical application of the DSD regulations, and “strongly encouraged” the IAAF to address these concerns.
“Ms Semenya encourages the IAAF too commission a team of fully independent experts to produce an unbiased assessment of the need for and methods of regulation before implementing what she believes are harmful rules that will negatively impact the well-being of athletes around the world,” the statement said.