CAPE TOWN – Caster Semenya says she refuses “to let World Athletics drug me or stop me from being who I am” despite losing her latest appeal against new rules governing testosterone levels in females in the sport.
The two-time Olympic champion challenged a 2019 ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) that went against her in the competition regulations saga for female athletes from the 400m distance to 1 500m.
Governing body World Athletics, in its previous guise as the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), issued regulations for female athletes with differences in sexual development (DSD) that require such athletes with high testosterone levels to take medication to lower those levels if they want to participate in track events ranging from the 400m to 1 500m.
Semenya competes in all the main affected races – 400m, 800m and 1 500m – and the move by World Athletics was regarded by many as a plot to end the South African’s dominance in the 800m in particular.
The 29-year-old superstar won 800m Olympic gold in 2012 and 2016, and was also the world champion in 2009, 2011 and 2017.
She has insisted that she won’t take any medication, and while she waited for the outcome of her appeal, she announced that she will try to compete in the 200m sprint in the meantime.
But the law firm representing Semenya, Norton Rose Fulbright, announced on Tuesday that the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland had refused to set aside the CAS ruling, and had upheld World Athletics’ controversial regulations.
“The Swiss Court dismissed the appeal despite finding that the World Athletics regulations seriously violate Caster’s physical integrity because the required hormonal drug intervention is not medically indicated, has negative health effects and is not based on the athlete’s free consent,” Norton Rose Fulbright said in a statement.
This means that as it stands, Semenya will not be able to defend her Olympic title in Tokyo next year, but she is not giving up without a fight.
“I am very disappointed by this ruling, but refuse to let World Athletics drug me or stop me from being who I am,” Semenya said.
“Excluding female athletes or endangering our health solely because of our natural abilities puts World Athletics on the wrong side of history.
“I will continue to fight for the human rights of female athletes, both on the track and off the track, until we can all run free the way we were born. I know what is right, and will do all I can to protect basic human rights, for young girls everywhere.”
The law firm added that Semenya was considering her options internationally and domestically, and noted that the World Medical Association (WMA) has called on physicians to “take no part in implementing the World Athletics regulations, and has demanded their immediate withdrawal”.
A partner in the law firm and Semenya’s advisor, Greg Nott, stated: “Nelson Mandela taught us that sport has the power to inspire and unite people. The World Athletics regulations upheld by the Swiss judgment do neither. This setback will not be the end of Caster’s story.
“She has an amazing team of advisors and lawyers behind her from countries around the world, including South Africa, Canada, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, India, the United States and the European Union.
“The international team is considering the judgment and the options to challenge the findings in European and domestic courts. We stand with Caster. We stand united, and united we are strong.”