JOHANNESBURG - Local and international law experts gathered in Pretoria yesterday in solidarity of Caster Semenya’s fight against the IAAF’s new female eligibility rules.
Among the international speakers was self-proclaimed “angry lawyer” professor Amelia Salehabadi-Fouques of Canada, who made an impassioned plea to legal eagles to challenge the IAAF’s leadership in general.
Salehabadi-Fouques, a sports lawyer and president of the Canadian Sports Law Association, said the IAAF should be hauled in front of the criminal court merely for entertaining the thought of regulating women’s bodies.
She was among the speakers on the first day of a conference addressing women’s eligibility in sport specifically targeting the IAAF’s controversial regulations. The IAAF introduced a new policy in April that would regulate women that naturally produce testosterone levels above five nanomoles per litre of blood.
The policy is set to go into effect on November 1 and would be limited to athletes who compete in events ranging from the 400m to the mile. Semenya and the South African sports movement have filed a legal challenge against the IAAF at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
Law professor Steve Cornelius, who has been among the leading dissenting voices against the rules, has organised the conference and is assisting Athletics South Africa in their legal challenge. Cornelius said the purpose of the summit was to ensure the matter stayed in the public eye, while hoping to inform people about the merits of the case.
“The first of November is fast approaching and we still have no direct indication whether something would happen or if they would suspend the regulations pending the outcome of the case,” Cornelius said.
“We felt that as a community working in sports law, science and medicine come together and discuss the regulations. We want to bring it to the public’s attention that the rules could go into effect.”
Cornelius resigned from the IAAF disciplinary tribunal four months after he was appointed. He wrote a scathing letter to the athletics body’s president, Sebastian Coe, hitting out against the “antiquated views of the ‘old’ scandal-hit IAAF”. Speaking about the progress of the case, Cornelius said he believed it would drag on well into the new year.
“The two legal teams do work together and they do communicate on a regular basis because they have a shared goal,” Cornelius said. “I give advice to the legal team whenever they need me for research. I’ve said it from the start I can make a contribution through my research expertise. We have an excellent legal team and I think the world will take note of SA’s legal brains and scientists.”
Cornelius said while there have been delays with the case before the CAS, all parties were looking to bring the dispute to a close as soon as possible. “I haven’t sensed any obstructionism from the IAAF, I think they want to see the regulations in place as soon as possible while we would like it to be set aside,” Cornelius said.
“We would have to wait and see what the CAS decides but we hope they suspend the regulations (before November 1) but at this stage, there is no indication which way it would go.”