The African National Congress has voiced their dismay at the Caster Semenya ruling. Photo: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

PORT ELIZABETH The African National Congress (ANC) said it was appalled at the decision handed down by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on Wednesday on the matter brought before it by Caster Semenya and Athletics South Africa (ASA).

The official opposition Democratic Alliance also voiced dismay and accused the court of discriminating against the track star.

Semenya lost her appeal against the IAAF which wants her levels of testosterone regulated. 

The ANC said in a statement that the IAAF, a body meant to be the custodian of the values for athletics, acted in a prejudicial manner that divides rather than unites athletes.

Semenya and ASA had taken the IAAF to court last month after CAS had cleared the global athletics body’s new gender regulations which restricted DSD (differences of sexual development) athletes by forcing them to take medication to reduce their natural testosterone levels in order to compete internationally against women in certain disciplines.

Semenya, 28, will now be forced to take the testosterone-lowering medication for six months before competing.

The world athletics body was trying to force what they term “hyperandrogenic” athletes or those with “differences of sexual development” to seek treatment to lower their testosterone levels below a prescribed amount if they wish to continue competing as women.

The IAAF has been adamant that the moves were necessary to create a level playing field for other women athletes.

The ANC said it was disheartening to learn that the court ruled against Semenya in her fight to be treated equally and without prejudice.  

“The ANC joins millions of South Africans in reiterating its support for equal treatment for Caster Semenya by the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF).”

The ANC said the sporting arena had always been a contested terrain. 

“We have had the ignominy of the Olympics being hosted by the racist Nazi regime in 1936. We have also had the sporting community shun and isolate the apartheid regime, and not allow apartheid athletes to compete on the international stage. As the ANC, we had hoped that the IAAF would remember its past, both good and bad, and do the right thing. Unfortunately, the IAAF chose expediency at the expense of [the] natural talents of athletes like Caster Semenya.”

The ANC commended Semenya for the way in which she conducted herself throughout the ordeal.  

"It would have been very easy for Caster to exhibit anger, on the contrary she has been the epitome of grace and charm. “

The ruling party further called upon on the international sporting community to raise their voices at what it called an injustice.  

“The UN Human Rights Council resolution adopted in March 2019 on Caster Semenya should serve as a lodestar in guiding not only the sporting fraternity, but the rest of the world in establishing fair rules that protect and uphold the human rights and dignity of others.”

The UNHRC adopted a resolution tabled by South Africa to defend Semenya's rights to participate in sport.

The DA said IAAF policy on the matter was “wholly discriminatory” to female athletes who happen to have higher testosterone levels in their bodies. 

In a statement, the DA said it supported a remarkably talented athlete who had made the country proud. 

“She has encouraged other young female athletes to participate in sports and to believe in themselves. She has flown our flag high and has consistently raised the bar in the global sports fraternity, despite opposition that has been levelled against her natural abilities. Caster Semenya deserves the right to compete just like all other female athletes before her.”

The DA further called upon the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) and the SA government to provide greater support Semenya, and use all available processes to oppose this decision and fight for her right to compete on the international stage without having to take any drugs.

African News Agency (ANA)