JOHANNESBURG • South African 800m Olympic champion Caster Semenya said on Thursday she is "unquestionably a woman", after the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) denied reports that it would argue that she should be classified as a biological male.
Semenya, 28, issued the statement ahead of a landmark hearing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) next week that will challenge a proposed rule by the IAAF aiming to restrict testosterone levels in female runners.
"Ms Semenya is unquestionably a woman. She is a heroine and an inspiration to many around the world," her lawyers said in a statement.
"Her case is about the rights of women who are born as women, reared and socialised as women, who have been legally recognised as women for their entire lives, who have always competed in athletics as women.
"She asks that she be respected and treated as any other athlete."
The rules would force so-called "hyperandrogenic" athletes or those with "differences of sexual development" (DSD) to keep testosterone levels below a prescribed amount.
FOR WOMEN'S RIGHTS
Her case is about the rights of women who are born as women, reared and socialised as women, who have been legally recognised as women for their entire lives, who have always competed in athletics as women.
CASTER SEMENYA'S LAWYERS, ahead of a landmark hearing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport next week to challenge a proposed IAAF rule to restrict testosterone levels in female runners.
They were supposed to have been instituted in November last year but have been put on ice pending next week's hearings.
Supported by the South African athletics federation, the two-time Olympic champion in the 800m (2012, 2016) and three-time world champion (2009, 2011, 2017) in the same event has denounced the proposals.
"I just want to run naturally, the way I was born. It is not fair that I am told I must change. It is not fair that people question who I am," she said previously.
Semenya's legal team added: "She looks forward to responding to the IAAF at the upcoming CAS hearing... Her genetic gift should be celebrated, not discriminated against."
As well as Semenya, the silver and bronze medallists of the 800m at the Rio Olympics, Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi and Kenya's Margaret Wambui, have also faced questions about their testosterone levels.
"The IAAF is not classifying any DSD athlete as male," the IAAF said in a statement.
"But, to preserve fair competition in the female category, it is necessary to require DSD athletes to reduce their testosterone down to female levels."
A CAS spokesman confirmed on Thursday that the hearing is scheduled for next week in Lausanne from Monday to Friday with Semenya in attendance.
As mentioned in its statement, IAAF lawyers are expected to argue that, though Semenya and other DSD athletes are classified as women, they have male genes and testes and should take measures to ensure a level playing field.
Jonathan Taylor, the IAAF's lawyer, said that women with normal female testosterone levels will not have any chance to win in competitions if Semenya is successful at the CAS.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE TIMES, LONDON