Athletics: S. Africa to fight testosterone rule as Semenya returns to track at Diamond League in Doha

Olympic champion Caster Semenya will bid to move the spotlight from the new rules firmly back to the track as the Diamond League gets under way in Doha on May 4, 2018.
Olympic champion Caster Semenya will bid to move the spotlight from the new rules firmly back to the track as the Diamond League gets under way in Doha on May 4, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

JOHANNESBURG (AFP) - South Africa's athletics federation said on Thursday (May 3) that it would challenge new rules governing female athletes' testosterone levels, which affect the nation's Olympic champion Caster Semenya.

Athletics South Africa (ASA) said it would "challenge the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) on these new regulations as we have found them to be skewed".

The new policy targets women who naturally produce unusually high levels of testosterone.

Athletes classified as "hyper-androginous" will have to chemically lower their testosterone levels to 5 nanomoles per litre of blood to be eligible to run any international race of 400 metres up to the mile.

Semenya, meanwhile, will bid to move the spotlight from the new rules firmly back to the track as the Diamond League gets under way in Doha on Friday.

The double Olympic 800 metres champion, will race in the 1,500m at the opening of the IAAF's elite 14-meet competition. It will be her first outing since the rule changes were announced.

Semenya has long come under scrutiny because of her powerful physique and deep voice related to hyperandrogenism, the medical condition which causes a person to produce high levels of male sex hormones.

 
 
 

The ASA said that, after consultation with South Africa's sports minister, it would take the IAAF to Lausanne's Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) if it did not rethink the rule.

The IAAF has defended the rule change as scientifically sound arguing that "hyper-androginous" women with heightened testosterone levels enjoy an unfair advantage.

But the rule has provoked fury in South Africa with officials and sports lovers describing it as "racist" and "sexist" and a deliberate attempt to target Semenya.

In its statement, the ASA commented that the IAAF had imposed similar rules around "hyper-androginous" athletes in 2011.

These were successfully appealed against by an affected Indian athlete, Dutee Chand.

A study into female athletes with heightened testosterone levels, co-funded by the IAAF and the World Anti-Doping Agency, concluded that those affected had a "significant" advantage in certain competitions.

Semenya hits the Diamond League in top form, having most recently claimed the 800m-1,500m double at the Commonwealth Games.

"God made me the way I am and I accept myself. I am who I am and I am proud of myself," the defiant South African tweeted on Tuesday.

That tweet followed two more by the 27-year-old stating: "Opinions aren't facts. Stop worrying about what people think about you" and "Not everyone deserves to know the real you. Let them criticise who they think you are."

Either way, Semenya's trademark last-lap burst to the front of the pack will be fully tested at the Qatar Sports Club by a field including five Kenyans and four Ethiopians sure to seek to hamper the South African with team tactics.