Caster Semenya. Photo: Darren England/EPA
Cape Town – The SA Medical Association (Sama) has thrown its support behind athletics star Caster Semenya, saying that the proposed requirement for hormonal manipulation in athletes is “unethical and invasive”.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has announced that it will deliver a decision by March 26 in the controversial case pitting Semenya against the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).

Semenya is challenging proposals by the IAAF that aim to restrict female athletes’ testosterone levels.

Sama chairperson Dr Angelique Coetzee said: “The requirement for hormonal manipulation runs in stark contrast to the entrenched principle of athletes competing in their natural state.

"Such rules are excessive and would constitute a systematic affront to the dignity of all female athletes.”

Coetzee said that in the interest of medical ethics, the medical profession was compelled to denounce any policies in sport, or any other fields, which were not compatible with the basic human rights principles of individual choice, confidentiality, consent, dignity, non-discrimination, and equity. 

“We are concerned that the arguments by the IAAF for regulating testosterone levels in such athletes are most likely based on a single, flawed study in which reporters were highly conflicted.

She said the World Medical Association's statement on Principles of Health Care for Sports Medicine requires that physicians oppose or refuse to administer any such means or method which were not in accordance with medical ethics, and/or might be harmful to the athlete using it, especially procedures which artificially modify blood constituents or biochemistry, amongst others.

"In addition, doctors prescribing treatment of this nature for a condition that is not recognised as a pathology will be in violation of medical ethics.

“It is baffling that natural advantages in sport are being critiqued for athletics, but not for other sports.

"Basketball, high jump and goalkeeping in soccer are examples where acromegaly - a condition responsible for excessive tallness - would confer a clear advantage.

“We support Semenya in this legal battle and look forward to a successful outcome for her. We urge the IAAF to reconsider their stance on this issue and to rely on better and more extensive research emanating from the world's greater medical community.”

Cape Times