Pretoria - Caster Semenya has hit back at the IAAF and vowed to continue her fight despite losing her challenge to the global athletics body’s female eligibility rules.
The two-time Olympic champion accused the IAAF of driving a decade-long vendetta against her.
“I know that the IAAF’s regulations have always targeted me specifically,” Semenya said. “For a decade the IAAF has tried to slow me down, but this has actually made me stronger.”
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) yesterday ruled in favour of the IAAF despite accepting that the regulations were discriminatory.
“The decision of the CAS will not hold me back,” a defiant Semenya said. “I will once again rise above and continue to inspire young women and athletes in South Africa and around the world.”
Semenya received strong support from Sports Minister Tokozile Xasa, who said: “Naturally we are disappointed with the judgment. We will study the judgment, consider it and determine a way forward. As the South African government we have always maintained that these regulations trample on the human rights and dignity of Caster Semenya and other women athletes.”
Semenya will have to take hormone-suppressing drugs if she wants to compete in her preferred 800m event. She has been unstoppable in the two-lap event over the past years, going unbeaten since September 2015.
The CAS panel, consisting of three arbitrators, found that although the rules were discriminatory towards disorders of sex development (DSD) athletes, it was “necessary, reasonable and proportionate” to preserve the integrity of female athletics.
“By majority, the CAS panel has dismissed the requests for arbitration considering that the claimants were unable to establish that the DSD regulations were ‘invalid’,” the CAS said.
It ruled in favour of the IAAF despite expressing “some serious concerns as to the future practical application of these DSD regulations”.
Semenya’s legal firm Norton Rose Fulbright said it would study the ruling and decide whether it would take the decision on review.
The CAS said Semenya and her team could appeal the verdict at the Swiss Federal Tribunal within 30 days.
“Ms Semenya shares the view of the dissenting CAS arbitrator that the DSD regulations are unnecessary,” her legal team said.
“Women with differences in sexual development have genetic variations that are conceptually no different than other genetic variations that are celebrated in the sport.
“The IAAF’s basis for discriminating against these women is their natural genetic variations.”
The international athletics body welcomed the CAS’s decision and announced that the regulations would go into effect on May 8.
The IAAF said athletes like Semenya would have seven days to reduce testosterone levels to within the regulation levels.
Semenya’s testosterone concentrations needed to be below the required levels by May 8 and remain there if she wanted to participate in the restricted events at the World Championships in Doha starting at the end of September.