Semenya barred from world meet

Top Swiss court's ruling means she can't defend 800m title without testosterone therapy

Caster Semenya easily winning the 800m in 1min 55.70sec at the Prefontaine Classic Diamond League meet in California on June 30. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Caster Semenya easily winning the 800m in 1min 55.70sec at the Prefontaine Classic Diamond League meet in California on June 30. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LAUSANNE • Switzerland's highest court ruled that two-time Olympic gold medallist Caster Semenya must immediately follow rules passed by track and field's governing body, the IAAF, that would require her to undergo hormone therapy to run in certain events.

The South African, 28, will not be able to defend her 800m world title in Qatar next month, said her legal team, following Monday's decision by the Swiss Federal Tribunal that reverses a ruling that allowed her to compete pending an appeal.

In May, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) sided with the International Association of Athletics Federations, upholding its rule that put a cap on permissible testosterone levels for events in distances from 400m to a mile (1.6km).

It requires any female athletes, whose natural testosterone levels exceed a certain threshold that constitutes an impermissible competitive advantage, to artificially lower the amount to under 5nmol/L for six months.

The Swiss Federal Supreme Court in June suspended that rule, allowing Semenya to compete without using medication to lower her testosterone levels pending the appeal.

But the Tribunal ruled that "the strict requirements and high thresholds for the interim suspension of CAS awards... were not fulfilled".

In an official statement, Semenya said: "I am very disappointed to be kept from defending my hard-earned title, but this will not deter me from continuing my fight for the human rights of all of the female athletes concerned."

Her lawyer, Dorothee Schramm, also said in the statement that the ruling was "procedural" and "has no impact on the appeal itself".

She added: "We will continue to pursue Caster's appeal and fight for her fundamental human rights.

"A race is always decided at the finish line."

Semenya, who is believed to have an intersex condition that causes her body to produce higher levels of testosterone, has framed her argument about mandated hormonal drug intervention as a violation of "fundamental human rights".

The IAAF, which drafted the regulation upheld by CAS, has maintained this gives her an unfair advantage over other female competitors, and yesterday welcomed the decision as shedding much-needed "parity and clarity".

It added that it would maintain its position in the remainder of the legal proceedings that "there are some contexts, sport being one of them, where biology has to trump gender identity, which is why regulations are a necessary means of protecting fair and meaningful competition in elite female athletics".

As of yesterday, Semenya's social media posts included several inspirational quotes and a cryptic tweet that read: "First chapter of my life done, looking forward to my second chapter."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 01, 2019, with the headline 'Semenya barred from world meet'. Subscribe