Caster Semenya, seen here running in the 5 000m at the SA championships last week, has maintained that she wants to continue competing in her natural state. Photo: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters
Caster Semenya, seen here running in the 5 000m at the SA championships last week, has maintained that she wants to continue competing in her natural state. Photo: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

Caster Semenya: Don’t trade your authenticity for approval

By Ashfak Mohamed Time of article published Apr 30, 2019

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She was voted one of the 100 most influential people in the world for 2019 by Time magazine just a few weeks ago, but now Caster Semenya faces arguably the biggest moment of her career.

And, sadly, it won’t be on the track, where she is an undisputed champion.

Semenya will enter the Court of Arbitration for Sport buildings in Lausanne, Switzerland on Wednesday morning to hear the outcome of her appeal against proposed female classification regulations that the IAAF want to impose.

The governing body of athletes believe that they would “level the playing fields” by insisting that female athletes like Semenya – who compete in distances from the 400m to 1 500m – and have naturally high testosterone levels, must take medication to reduce it before they can run in women’s events.

Semenya and Athletics South Africa have argued that the IAAF’s case is highly flawed, with little empirical evidence to support their claims.

The world and Olympic 800m champion is continually stated that she wants to run in her natural state, and she has been backed by the South African government, as well as the United Nations, amongst others.

But ultimately, it is the Court of Arbitration for Sport that will have the final say on Wednesday at 12pm South African time.

Semenya took to social media ahead of the big day, first showing off her easygoing nature, and then becoming serious.

She won the 5 000m title – an unusual distance for her – at the SA championships in Germiston last week, before adding the 1 500m gold and being part of the winning 4x400m team for Gauteng North.

“What I do on track, it’s like brooke in the bold and the beautiful. I change events just like that,” Semenya joked.

But on Tuesday, the 28-year-old made a powerful statement: “Don’t trade your authenticity for approval.”

A few days ago, she also paid tribute to her legal team, captioning a picture of them with the words “A TEAM”.

Semenya will be confident that the case will go her way on Wednesday, but she wouldn’t know for sure.

She has her eyes set on more success at the world championships in Doha, which starts on September 28.

Before that, though, Mzansi and the rest of Semenya’s supporters will hold their breath on Wednesday morning, waiting for justice to be done.

Former 400m hurdles champion Edwin Moses captured the essence of Semenya’s cause in his entry on the South African for the Time magazine list.

“A world and Olympic track-and-field champion several times over, Caster Semenya has taught us that sex isn’t always binary, and caused us to question the justness of distributing societal benefits according to ‘male’ and ‘female’ classifications,” wrote American Moses, a two-time Olympic champion during the 1970s and 1980s.

“Semenya identifies as a woman, but has testosterone levels higher than the typical female. Her success has brought controversy in elite sport, with many arguing that her biological traits give her an unfair advantage in women’s competition.

“But Semenya is fighting that. Sport eligibility, she and others say, should not be based on hormone levels or other differences of sex development.

“If successful, Semenya’s effort could open the door for all who identify as women to compete in track events without having to first medically lower their testosterone levels below a proposed limit.

“Ultimately, this incredibly difficult issue is a political one for sport to resolve. But however it is addressed, Semenya will have already made a singular historical contribution to our understanding of biological sex.”


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