CAPE TOWN – Another massive outcry is expected in the sporting world as South Africa’s golden girl Caster Semenya will have to take medication to reduce her testosterone levels if she hopes to continue running in events from the 400m to the mile.
This comes after the IAAF announced on Thursday that it has changed eligibility regulations for female classification for the 400m, 400m hurdles, 800m, 1 500m and the mile.
The IAAF said in a statement that the new rules require athletes who have a “Difference of Sexual Development (DSD)” and who are androgen-sensitive must meet certain criteria to compete in the above events:
- (a) she must be recognised at law either as female or as intersex (or equivalent);
- (b) she must reduce her blood testosterone level to below five (5) nmol/L for a continuous period of at least six months (e.g., by use of hormonal contraceptives); and
- (c) thereafter she must maintain her blood testosterone level below five (5) nmol/L continuously (i.e. whether she is in competition or out of competition) for so long as she wishes to remain eligible.
The new regulations will come into effect from November 1 this year, which means Semenya and other athletes affected will still be able to compete in the upcoming European season, which includes the Diamond League meetings, in their preferred distances.
About an hour before the announcement was made by the IAAF, Semenya posted a message on Twitter: “I am 97% sure you don’t like me, but I’m 100% sure i don’t care.”, which was followed by an angry-face emoji.
But now it remains to be seen whether Semenya will appeal the decision, which could see it go as far as the Court for Arbitration in Sport (CAS).
The 27-year-old Olympic champion brought home more gold for South Africa at the recent Commonwealth Games, where she won the 800m and 1 500m titles.
But in what could have been her pre-empting the IAAF decision, Semenya has spoken recently about moving up in distance to the 5 000m and 10 000m going forward.
IAAF president Sebastian Coe was at pains to point out that the new regulations don't mean that the affected athletes had cheated.
“We want athletes to be incentivised to make the huge commitment and sacrifice required to excel in the sport, and to inspire new generations to join the sport and aspire to the same excellence,” Coe said.
“As the International Federation for our sport, we have a responsibility to ensure a level playing field for athletes.
“Like many other sports we choose to have two classifications for our competition – men’s events and women’s events. This means we need to be clear about the competition criteria for these two categories.
“Our evidence and data show that testosterone, either naturally produced or artificially inserted into the body, provides significant performance advantages in female athletes.
“The revised rules are not about cheating, no athlete with a DSD has cheated. They are about levelling the playing field to ensure fair and meaningful competition in the sport of athletics where success is determined by talent, dedication and hard work rather than other contributing factors.”