Semenya loses bid to set aside rule requiring women with high testosterone to reduce levels

Caster Semenya of South Africa reacts after the women's 2000m race at the International athletics meeting in Montreuil, near Paris, France, June 11, 2019. Julien de Rosa / EPA via The Associated Press

Double Olympic 800 metres champion Caster Semenya has lost her appeal to the Swiss Federal Tribunal to set aside a 2019 Court of Arbitration (CAS) ruling that female athletes with a high natural level of testosterone must take medication to reduce it.

South Africa’s Semenya approached the tribunal in May last year after CAS, sport’s highest court, ruled that World Athletics regulations were necessary for athletes with differences in sexual development (DSDs) in races ranging from 400 metres to a mile, to ensure fair competition.

The tribunal found the requirement of subjecting certain female athletes to drug or surgical interventions as a precondition to compete does not amount to a violation of Swiss public policy, Semenya’s lawyers said in a statement on Tuesday.

Read more: Caster Semenya out of Worlds after Swiss court reverses ruling

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Testosterone increases muscle mass, strength and haemoglobin, which affects endurance. Some competitors have said women with higher levels of the hormone have an unfair advantage.

“I am very disappointed by this ruling, but refuse to let World Athletics drug me or stop me from being who I am,” Semenya said referring to the sport’s governing body.

“Excluding female athletes or endangering our health solely because of our natural abilities puts World Athletics on the wrong side of history.

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“I will continue to fight for the human rights of female athletes, both on the track and off the track, until we can all run free the way we were born.

“I know what is right and will do all I can to protect basic human rights, for young girls everywhere.”

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Semenya has already indicated that she would focus on the shorter 200-metres sprint event, which falls outside of the regulations, at the Tokyo Olympic Games that were postponed to next year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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