Olympian Caster Semenya Barred From Competing Against Women; Won't Defend 800-Meters World Title

DOHA, QATAR - MAY 03:  Caster Semenya of South Africa looks on prior to competing in the Women's 800 metres during the IAAF Diamond League event at the Khalifa International Stadium on May 03, 2019 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)

Olympian Caster Semenya Barred From Competing Against Women; Won't Defend 800-Meters World Title

Despite the ruling, the 28-year-old runner says,"this will not deter me from continuing my fight for the human rights of all of the female athletes concerned."

Published July 31st

Written by Rachel Herron

Two-time South African Olympic champion Caster Semenya will not be allowed to defend her 800-meter world champion title this fall after a Swiss court ruled she cannot compete against women unless she takes testosterone-suppressing drugs.

Last year, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) issued new rules mandating female athletes with “differences of sex development” could not compete in women’s races from the 400 meter to the mile unless they lowered their natural testosterone to a level closer to “female range,” reported the Associated Press.

Semenya, 28, was born with the typical male XY chromosome pattern and a condition that results in male and female biological characteristics as well as higher testosterone levels than average “female range.”

Although she was born female, Semenya, has faced scrutiny surrounding her gender for the last 10 years. When the IAAF made their ruling, Semenya challenged them in the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). 

When the CAS announced it was upholding the IAAF regulations in May 2019, Semenya took her case to Switzerland’s Supreme Court, which ordered a temporary suspension of the rules until it issues a decision.

On Tuesday, a judge from the Swiss Federal Supreme Court reversed the temporary suspension and upheld the original ruling from the IAAF, a decision Semenya finds “deeply hurtful.”

"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," Semenya said in a statement.

Semenya, who has won two Olympic medals for the 800 meter, including in 2012 when she was taking hormone suppressants, also finds the ruling discriminatory to women born with unique genealogy.

“Of course I’m a woman,” Semenya told a reporter for TIME. “I have a vagina. I don’t have a penis.” 

“What they’re (IAAF) saying is, when a woman performs at a high level, it’s a problem,” Semenya added. “But when a man performs, oh great, all hail the greatest.”

What’s more, Semenya said that the testosterone suppressants she took had terrible side effects including weight gain, nausea, fevers and abdominal pain.

Semenya has pledged not to take drugs again and said she would rather drop down to sprints or push for longer distance events.

Tuesday's ruling means she cannot compete in events ranging from the 400 meter to the 1500 meter in the world championships in Doha, Qatar, from Sept. 28-Oct. 6

Semenya, who is sponsored by Nike and has been supported by high-profile athletes like LeBron James and Serena Williams, also believes this decision is bad for business. 

“If people want to come watch Caster Semenya run, then let them watch Caster Semenya run,” Semenya told TIME. “What they care about is just seeing one human inspiring another human. Don’t destroy it! Is it that much to ask?”

(Photo: Francois Nel/Getty Images)

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