Sebastian Coe, IAAF president, speaks at a press conference. Photo: REUTERS/Jean-Pierre Amet
Sebastian Coe, IAAF president, speaks at a press conference. Photo: REUTERS/Jean-Pierre Amet
Caster Semenya celebrates winning the women's 800 meter race at the IAAF Diamond League Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon in May. Photo: Steve Dipaola/EPA
Caster Semenya celebrates winning the women's 800 meter race at the IAAF Diamond League Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon in May. Photo: Steve Dipaola/EPA

JOHANNESBURG - The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) said it would “stand ready” to defend its new female eligibility rules after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) confirmed an arbitration procedure had been opened.

This comes a day after Caster Semenya announced she would file a legal challenge to the amended rules at the international supreme court for sports disputes. “The CAS has informed the IAAF this morning (Tuesday) that it has received a request for arbitration filed by Caster Semenya vs IAAF,” the IAAF said. “We await further information and stand ready to defend the new regulations.”

Semenya’s lawyers said their client would challenge the IAAF’s rules “to ensure, safeguard and protect the rights of all women”. “She asserts that the regulations are discriminatory, irrational, unjustifiable and in violation of the IAAF Constitution, the Olympic Charter, the laws of Monaco (where the IAAF is based), the laws of jurisdictions in which international competitions are held, and of universally recognised human rights,” international law firm Norton Rose Fulbright said.

The IAAF introduced a new policy in April attempting to regulate women that naturally produce testosterone levels above five nanomoles per litre of blood. For now, the regulations are limited to athletes that compete in events ranging from the 400m to 1.6m.

The IAAF said the evidence from peer-reviewed research and observational data suggested that women who produced testosterone levels in the normal male range gave them a significant advantage over other female athletes in the “normal female range”.

“Having levels of circulating testosterone in the normal male range rather than in the normal female range and being androgen-sensitive gives a female DSD (difference of sexual development) athlete a performance advantage of at least 5%-6% over a female athlete with testosterone levels in the normal female range,” the IAAF statement read.

The athletics governing body said such an advantage would make an “enormous difference in events where milliseconds count”. “The effects are most clearly seen in races over distances between 400m and 1.6m, where the combination of increased lean body mass and elevated circulating haemoglobin appears to have the greatest combined impact,” the IAAF said. Meanwhile, a group of international human rights organisations have expressed their support for Semenya.

Organisations like the Women’s Sports Foundation founded by tennis legend Billie Jean King, OutRight International, the International Working Group on Women and Sport, and other LGBT rights groups have thrown their weight behind Semenya.

“We stand in solidarity with Caster Semenya and all female athletes whose human rights are compromised under the false pretence of ‘protecting’ women’s sports,” the organisations said. “We demand the IAAF rescind these discriminatory regulations and stand with female athletes globally in pursuit of an equitable and inclusive athletic experience.”

Cape Times

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