JOHANNESBURG – Former Caster Semenya rival turned vociferous advocate Madeleine Pape of Australia expects resistance from some female athletes should the IAAF’s new female eligibility rules be scrapped.
Pape was among local and international speakers at a conference at the University of Pretoria addressing women’s eligibility in sport, specifically targeting the IAAF’s controversial regulations.
The former middle-distance athlete raced against Semenya in the heats at the 2009 Berlin World Championships, where the South African won the global title amidst the gender verification storm.
“Because there hasn’t been any effort on behalf of the IAAF to encourage a different way of thinking among women athletes, it seems inevitable to me,” said Pape, who is pursuing her PhD in sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“Yes, there is a diversity of opinion amongst women athletes, but there are still the hardliners who adhere to the idea that the regulations are necessary, and a lot of them are very influential.”
Among the ‘influential athletes’ and proponents of the regulations is women’s world marathon champion and IAAF Athletes’ Commission member Paula Radcliffe of Great Britain.
“If we arrive at a situation where the regulations are knocked down again, I think as we saw following 2015 (when the initial regulations were scrapped), you are going to see a call from women athletes to the IAAF to do something about it,” Pape said.
“There is a cycle here where nothing is being done differently to change the way people are thinking.”
The IAAF introduced a new policy in April that would regulate women that naturally produce testosterone levels above five nanomoles per litre of blood.
The policy is set to go into effect on November 1, and would be limited to athletes that compete in events ranging from the 400m to the mile.
South African track queen Caster Semenya and the country’s sports movement have filed a legal challenge against the IAAF at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
As part of her research, Pape interviewed 65 athletes from the so-called global north for their views on the regulations.
“The IAAF and Paula Radcliffe claim that women athletes, and they don’t qualify it, want these regulations, and they throw a blanket over women athletes,” Pape said.
“My interviews certainly show that it is not accurate. Among the people I interviewed, the men were far more likely to support Caster Semenya and be ambivalent about the regulations.
“The resistance is certainly coming primarily from women than men.”