Boost for Caster Semenya’s European case as she eyes 5 000m Olympic time

FILE - South Africa's Caster Semenya. Photo: Werner Beukes/SAPA

FILE - South Africa's Caster Semenya. Photo: Werner Beukes/SAPA

Published May 20, 2021


CAPE TOWN – While Caster Semenya will be launching another bid to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics in the 5 000m later this month, her ongoing case at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has also received a timely boost this week.

Semenya’s lawyer, Greg Nott, was not available to speak to Independent Media on Thursday, but the ECHR issued a notification this week on its website, where it revealed that a “statement of the facts” of the case will be published on their website next Tuesday.

According to the website, such a statement involves submitting details to the court such as the date of the legal statement; the topic of the statement; the date(s) of the topic to be discussed; the basic facts involved in the reasoning for the statement; the identities of all pertinent parties; their connections to the case; and if possible, the signatures of the parties.

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The ECHR said in its notification that the court has “communicated to the Government of Switzerland the application Semenya v. Switzerland (application no. 10934/21) and requested that they submit observations after the non-contentious phase”.

In the principal facts, the court said that Semenya had lodged her case on February 18 this year where she raised her objections against the new World Athletics regulations concerning female athletes who compete in distances from 400m to the mile and have differences in sexual development (DSD), who are required to undergo hormone and other treatments if their natural testosterone levels are above five nanolitres per litre of blood.

After losing appeals at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland and the Swiss Federal Supreme Court, Semenya turned to the ECHR in Strasbourg, France.

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“Ms Semenya complains that there has been a violation of her rights under Articles 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) and 8 (right to respect for private life), taken alone and in conjunction with Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination), and also a breach of Articles 6 (right to a fair hearing) and 13 (right to an effective remedy) of the European Convention of Human Rights,” the court’s notification read.

The ECHR said that it decided to grant the case “priority” on March 17 this year, and on May 3, they gave notice of the application to the Swiss government. Now Semenya will await the next step on May 25, next Tuesday, when the statement of the facts will be released.

It is unclear at this stage whether the matter will be concluded before the Tokyo Olympics, with the athletics programme taking place from July 30 to August 8.

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So, for the moment, Semenya’s focus will be on reaching the 5 000m Olympic final, scheduled for August 2. She will try to reach the qualifying mark of 15 minutes and 10 seconds (15:10.00) at a specially arranged meeting in Durban next Friday, May 28.

Organiser Lee-Roy Newton of Newton Sports Agency told Independent Media on Thursday that he was confident that the two-time 800m Olympic gold medallist will make it to Tokyo.

“I’m extremely confident that she will get it. Her 2 000m attempt was on track; she did a 3 000m, was on track,” said Newton, himself a former top sprinter who was part of the gold-medal SA 4x100m relay team at the 2001 world championships.

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“She’s building up, and I know that she’s very focused for the event. There’ll be a few Ethiopians that will be coming out as well how to compete against her. If I’m a betting man, which I am, I’m going to bet on her, and not against her.

“Glenrose (Xaba) will also compete, as part of her preparation, so excited to see both Caster and Glenrose chase that qualifying time.”

Newton added that there would be other events as well at the KZN athletics track in Durban, including the 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, 1 500m and 5 000, while the women will compete in 1 000m, 1 500m and 5 000m races.

“After national champs, Caster made a comment that if she competed down at the coast, she was sure she would have qualified,” Newton said.

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“I sat with our partners, saying let’s put on an event not just for Caster, but also for South Africans that had just missed out on an opportunity to qualify at the national champs – specifically in the middle distance, where there has not been enough events on the coast.

“My partners agreed, and we said let’s put on an event at the coast, and KZN was probably the best coastal track in the country, and that’s how it came about.

“The event will be streamed on BackTrack (Sports), as we are in partnership with BackTrack. Let’s get behind Caster. I really hope she qualifies, and it will be great for the country, and it will be quite an historic moment if she does qualify.”


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