'I won't take hormone-blockers or stop running'

South African runner Caster Semenya celebrating in front of the camera after winning the women's 800m race by a margin of almost three seconds at the Diamond League athletics meet in Doha on Friday. caption.
South African runner Caster Semenya celebrating in front of the camera after winning the women's 800m race by a margin of almost three seconds at the Diamond League athletics meet in Doha on Friday. caption. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

DOHA • Caster Semenya struck a defiant tone after winning her 30th consecutive 800m race on Friday, saying: "I'm never going anywhere."

The two-time Olympic champion quashed speculation that she was ready to quit after competing in the Diamond League in Doha two days after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled that she would have to take hormone-reducing drugs to continue in her favoured event, in line with IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) regulations limiting natural testosterone in female athletes.

Asked if she would take the pills, the South African said: "Hell, no."

She then vowed to compete at the world championships, also in Doha, in September. The remarks suggest an appeal to the Swiss Federal Tribunal against the verdict.

After an extraordinary week came an impressive performance. If this was Semenya's final 800m race, it was a perfect reminder of her dominance and her determination.

She clocked 1min 54.98sec, the 15th-fastest time in history, to win by almost three seconds from Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi.

DEFIANT

How the hell am I going to retire when I'm 28?... God has decided my career and he will end my career, so no man, or any other human, can stop me from running.

CASTER SEMENYA, two-time Olympic 800m champion, on the IAAF rule that requires athletes like her to take drugs to reduce their testosterone levels to be eligible for events from 400m to a mile.

Semenya said after the race: "How the hell am I going to retire when I'm 28?

"I still have 10 years or more in athletics. It doesn't matter how I'm going to do it. What matters is I'll still be here.

"God has decided my career and he will end my career, so no man, or any other human, can stop me from running."

Semenya has several options, most of them unpalatable for her.

As the IAAF's testosterone limit applies only to events ranging from the 400m to the mile, she could step up to the 5,000m and maintain her unusually high testosterone level, but she dismissed that possibility.

She could also take the blockers and be less competitive in the 800m, or run in men's races, which she will be eligible for according to the latest IAAF Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification.

Olympic chief Thomas Bach said yesterday that he had sympathy for Semenya but he also respected the CAS' decision.

"The issue is extremely complex. It has scientific impact, it has ethical impact, it impacts on 'fair play' in competition so it's extremely difficult to do justice to all," the International Olympic Committee (IOC) president said.

He also said that an IOC working group would examine the full CAS ruling once it was available.

The World Medical Association on Friday called on its members not to administer drugs which lower the level of testosterone in female athletes, saying there was "weak evidence" that they were necessary and they should be scrapped.

"This is why we have this working group, where there are also medical experts," Bach added. "But it is not only scientific, it is not only ethical, it is not only sport, it is also highly emotional. I'm afraid for these experts, it will be very difficult to find a solution that brings together all these arguments."

THE TIMES, LONDON, THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 05, 2019, with the headline ''I won't take hormone-blockers or stop running''. Print Edition | Subscribe