Semenya: I am not a threat to women's sport

LONDON • Double Olympic 800m champion Caster Semenya has said she is "no threat" to women's sport and that recent comments from International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) president Sebastian Coe have "opened old wounds".

She is awaiting a Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) verdict on her appeal against an IAAF regulation that stipulates female athletes classed as having differences in sexual development (DSDs) gain an unfair advantage due to their higher testosterone levels, though only in races between 400m and 1,000m.

Under the new rules, athletes classed as having DSDs must reduce their blood testosterone level to below 5nmol/L for a continuous period of six months before they can compete. They must then maintain it below that level continuously.

The CAS had been due to announce its decision on Tuesday, but the verdict has been postponed until late next month.

Coe had told Australia's Daily Telegraph at the weekend: "The reason we have gender classification is because if you didn't, then no woman would ever win another title or another medal or break another record in our sport."

In response, the South African issued a statement through her lawyers, saying: "The scars Ms Semenya has developed over the past decade run deep. Reading the comments of Mr Coe this weekend and the reference by the Daily Telegraph to 'the muscle-packed Semenya' is just the latest illustration of how the issues have been distorted by innuendo.

"Mr Coe is wrong to think Ms Semenya, who is a heroine and an inspirational role model, is a threat to women's sport.

"Ms Semenya is a woman. There is no debate or question about this, and the IAAF does not dispute this. She was born a woman, raised a woman, socialised as a woman and has competed as a woman her entire life. Mr Coe may have views about transgender women in sport, but that is a different issue.

"Ms Semenya does not wish to undergo medical intervention to change who she is and how she was born. She wants to compete naturally."

But the IAAF has backed the Briton's comments as "consistent" with the organisation's stance on DSD athletes from the beginning.

An e-mailed statement to Reuters by the world athletics governing body read: "If you are going to have a protected category as we do for female sport, then you need to find a way for DSD athletes to compete in a way that is fair for all female athletes. The IAAF has endeavoured to do this with its Female Classification eligibility regulations."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 28, 2019, with the headline 'Semenya: I am not a threat to women's sport'. Subscribe