Court: Semenya can appeal limit testosterone to female athletes

Court: Semenya can appeal limit testosterone to female athletes

Europe’s High Court of Human Rights ruled in favor of Olympic sprinter Caster Semenya on Tuesday, saying courts in Switzerland should give her a new chance to fight the requirement that athletes with normal testosterone take drugs to lower it.

The South African 800m Olympic champion, 32, had applied to the European Court of Human Rights in February 2021 after losing an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, sport’s highest court, and the Swiss Federal Court (SFT) in a drawn-out legal battle.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled, by a slim vote of four to three, that Semenya’s original appeal against the World Athletics Regulations had not been properly heard.

“In particular, the Court found that the plaintiff was not afforded sufficient institutional and procedural guarantees in Switzerland to allow her complaints to be examined effectively,” the European Court of Human Rights said.

“The high stakes of the case for the plaintiff and the narrow margin of discretion afforded to the respondent state should have led to a comprehensive institutional and procedural review, but the applicant has been unable to obtain such a review.”

Semenya may now be free to defy the rules that once again left her career on hold. She has a medical condition known as hyperandrogenism, which is characterized by higher than normal levels of testosterone, a hormone that increases muscle mass and strength, and hemoglobin, which affects endurance.

According to the rules, to compete in women’s events, athletes with differences in sexual development (DSD) that result in higher testosterone levels must lower them to those of a “healthy woman with ovaries”.

They may take birth control pills, have a monthly injection or have surgery to remove the testicles.

Read more at The Daily Maverick: Caster Semenya in the race against time for the Tokyo Olympics

World Athletics said it was sticking to its rules, which will remain in place for the time being.

“We continue to believe that the DSD regulations are a necessary, reasonable and proportionate means of protecting fair competition in the female category as found by both the Court of Arbitration for Sport and the Swiss Federal Court, after a detailed and expert assessment of the evidence.”

Caster Semenya competes in the 800m at the London Olympics on August 9, 2012 (Photo: Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled in 2019 that the rules of the global governing body are necessary for fair women’s competition.

Semenya said at the time that the rules were discriminatory and that the pill made her feel “constantly ill”. She lost her appeal to the ICC the year after the 2019 Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling was overturned.

World Athletics has consistently said that the regulations aim to create a level playing field for all athletes.

Semenya won the gold medal in the women’s 800 meters at the 2016 Games and is also a three-time world champion in the distance.

The regulations, which initially applied to 400-meter to mile races, were expanded in March to all women’s track events, preventing Semenya from relaunching her career by running longer distances. Reuters/DM


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