Caster Semenya says she was used as a “human guinea pig” by the IAAF in the past, and she is determined to ensure that it doesn’t happen to her again.
Semenya is currently embroiled in a battle with the athletics governing body to be able to compete in all middle-distance events from the 400 metres to the mile.
The IAAF has tried to enforce new female classification regulations that would see athletes with high testosterone levels – like Semenya – have to take medication to lower those levels.
Semenya has won a sort of reprieve from the Swiss Federal Supreme Court, who recently ruled to suspend the order from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which ruled in favour of the IAAF.
The CAS has until 25 June to make submissions to the Supreme Court, and in the meantime, Semenya is free to run in any race she wishes.
Despite that, the Olympic and world 800m champion had difficulty in taking part in the Diamond League meeting in Rabat on Sunday, where she said the Moroccan Athletics Federation did not allow her to run in the 800m.
They made a belated U-turn following public pressure, by which time it was too late for Semenya to travel from South Africa.
On Tuesday, Semenya’s legal team issued a statement welcoming the release of the full CAS decision to rule in the IAAF’s favour, where they highlighted a number of passages where the discrimination was clear against the athlete.
“The IAAF used me in the past as a human guinea pig to experiment with how the medication they required me to take would affect my testosterone levels,” Semenya said in the statement.
“Even though the hormonal drugs made me feel constantly sick, the IAAF now wants to enforce even stricter thresholds with unknown health consequences.
“I will not allow the IAAF to use me and my body again.
“But I am concerned that other female athletes will feel compelled to let the IAAF drug them and test the effectiveness and negative health effects of different hormonal drugs.
“This cannot be allowed to happen.”
Her legal team started off by saying that the CAS panel noted that Semenya “is – and always has been – recognised in law as a woman and has always identified as a woman” from birth.
“In the arbitral award released today, the CAS Panel unanimously states that ‘Ms. Semenya is a woman. At birth, it was determined that she was female, so she was born a woman. She has been raised as a woman. She has lived as a woman.
“She has run as a woman. She is – and always has been – recognised in law as a woman and has always identified as a woman. ... She is, today, a strong and dignified woman and one of the most famous and accomplished female athletes in the history of the sport’,” the legal team said.
They added that despite submissions from Dr Stephane Bermon, the IAAF’s Director of Health and Science, as well as evidence in the fields of genetics (from Professor Eric Vilain and Dr Alun Williams), endocrinology (Professor Richard Holt) and gynaecology (Professor Veronica Gomez-Lobo) on why the IAAF’s view of biological sex was wrong, the CAS still ruled in the IAAF’s favour.
The lawyers stated that the IAAF also ignored the CAS’ finding not to include the 1 500m and the mile among the list of races affected, as the panel had found that it was “mere speculation” that affected athletes had any competitive advantage in those two distances.
The fact that Semenya’s matter “is not a case about cheating or wrongdoing of any sort. Ms. Semenya is not accused of breaching any rule”, and that the World Medical Association had “publicly stated that it would be unethical to prescribe oral contraceptives to women for regulatory compliance purposes and that no doctor should have any part in administering the IAAF’s Regulations” were two further issues that calls the CAS decision into question.
They added that there was no clear plan to implement the regulations and the administering of the medication.
“Freed from its own pretences made during the CAS proceedings, the IAAF’s conduct shows the opposite of what the CAS perceived as a sympathetic, bona fide approach to the treatment of female athletes that was ‘of crucial relevance to the Panel in weighing the factors for the consideration of proportionality’,” Semenya’s legal team said.
“The IAAF’s own conduct thus defies the very basis on which two out of three CAS arbitrators based their decision.”
Semenya is scheduled to run in the 3 000m at the Prefontaine Classic in California on 30 June, although she has said that she will try to take part in the 800m race at that event instead.@ashfakmohamed