Athletics South Africa have said that they will confer with their legal team to assess the consequences of Caster Semenya’s victory in a European court in order to see if she can return to the athletics track.
It was a memorable Tuesday for the 32-year-old double Olympic 800m champion as the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that Semenya had been discriminated against in her fight to have World Athletics regulations set aside.
The sport’s governing body instituted rules dealing with female athletes with differences of sexual development, which effectively denies runners like Semenya from competing due to naturally high testosterone levels.
World Athletics wants such athletes to take medication or undergo surgery to lower the testosterone levels, but Semenya has refused to participate in such a process.
She appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and the Swiss Federal Supreme Court to overturn World Athletics’ regulations, but lost both cases. Semenya then went to the ECHR, who announced on Tuesday that “there had been a violation of the prohibition of discrimination (against Semenya), taken together with the right to respect for private life, as well as a violation of the right to an effective remedy”.
Now the athletics world is waiting for Semenya’s next step, with Athletics SA saying in a statement that they want to continue to support the three-time world champion going forward in her fight to run again, hopefully in next year’s Paris Olympics.
“The ruling has vindicated ASA who has all along contended that the regulations were ill-conceived, did not have a proper scientific basis and were highly discriminatory against elite female athletes with elevated testosterone levels, which did not give them an unfair advantage over their other female competitors,” the local governing body said.
“ASA is still awaiting the judgment to be handed down in English, whereupon ASA will confer with its legal team to ascertain the consequences of the courts ruling and to make a determination on her rights to participate in the sport of athletics.
“ASA would like to once again thank the government of South Africa, the ASA Board, legal and medical teams, all other organisations and individuals that supported the challenge against the highly discriminatory regulations that precluded her from participating in the sport in which she and other affected athletes excelled.
“ASA looks forward to welcoming her earliest return to the international athletics competitions in due course.”
Sports Minister Zizi Kodwa added his voice to Semenya’s plight as well. “As a two-time Olympic champion and three-time world champion, Caster Semenya has repeatedly displayed excellence and dignity on and off the athletics track,” he said.
“Caster has done so throughout her career whilst being subjected to offensive treatment, which has led to her being prevented from competing in her favoured events.
“While the fight to have Caster racing in her favoured athletics events continues, the ruling by the European Court of Human Rights is a clear statement at how Caster has faced discrimination in her fight against the offensive regulations she has been subjected to.
“I have repeatedly stated that women’s rights are human rights. As the South African government, we will continue to support Caster and Athletics South Africa in the fight for the dignity of women athletes, and for Caster’s right to race again in her favoured events.”