Caster Semenya’s career in danger due to new World Athletics regulation

FILE - Caster Semenya didn’t take part in the 10 000 meters that she was entered in to at the SA champs. Photo: BackpagePix

FILE - Caster Semenya didn’t take part in the 10 000 meters that she was entered in to at the SA champs. Photo: BackpagePix

Published Mar 31, 2023


Cape Town – Caster Semenya’s running career is in danger of being over after not competing at the South African championships on Thursday due to new World Athletics regulations.

Semenya had been entered in the 10 000m race that was scheduled to take place early on Thursday morning, but despite being present at the NWU McArthur Athletics Stadium in Potchefstroom, the former 800m Olympic champion watched from the sidelines as one of her training partners, Glenrose Xaba, won the gold medal in a time of 33 minutes and 2.13 seconds (33:02.13).

That was due to the change in the eligibility regulations regarding athletes who have differences of sexual development (DSD), like Semenya, which was taken by World Athletics last week.

It is the same regulations that prevented the 32-year-old athlete from participating in distances from the 400m to the mile over the last few years unless her testosterone levels are suppressed to below 2.5nmol/L for a minimum of six months, via either medication or surgery.

But the regulations now cover all distances on the track and all field events too, and the time period to reach the required testosterone levels is now 24 months instead of six, which could have a devastating effect on DSD athletes around the world.

Semenya – who won 800m gold medals at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, as well as the 2009, 2011 and 2017 world championships – has steadfastly refused to take any medical action to reach those levels, and first moved down from the 400m, 800m and 1 500m to the 200m sprint, before setting her sights on the 5 000m.

She was unable to qualify in the long-distance event for last year’s world championships in Eugene, Oregon, and appeared to be targeting the 10 000m this year after entering the national championships in that event in Potchefstroom.

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The change in the regulations to include all events on the track and in the field came into effect on Friday, March 31, but while Athletics South Africa have said in a statement that they are taking legal advice on the change in the regulations, they are “duty-bound to adhere to and implement the new regulations”.

“Whilst ASA is considering the new regulations and taking legal advice thereon, in the interim, it is duty-bound to adhere to and implement the new regulations, and as such, cannot allow any of those affected athletes to participate in any world ranking competition or international events in contravention of the said regulations,” the local governing body stated.

“In this regard, ASA is still awaiting the outcome of the legal challenge lodged against the regulations, which is still to be heard and decided upon by the European Court of Human Rights.

“ASA also reaffirms its gratitude to the government of South Africa, UNHRC (UN Human Rights Commission), the WHO (World Health Organization), World Medical Association, different governments around the world, global icons and fellow national federations that have continued to rally behind this noble course of supporting the challenge against these highly discriminatory regulations.”