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Court: Female runners must keep low testosterone levels to compete

By Clyde Hughes
Court: Female runners must keep low testosterone levels to compete
South African sprinter Caster Semenya runs in the women's 800-meter IAAF race in 2018. File Photo by Jean-Christophe Bott/EPA-EFE

May 1 (UPI) -- The Court of Arbitration for Sport on Wednesday ruled against South African female runner Caster Semenya in a historic legal case that requires she reduce her testosterone level to compete at the Tokyo Olympics next year.

Semenya, the defending gold medalist in the 800-meter race, has faced consistent challenges over her gender and body since she burst on the world track scene to win at the world championships a decade ago.

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In 2018, the International Association of Athletics Federations adopted controversial new rules forcing female athletes to reduce and maintain testosterone levels at a certain point to compete in events. Critics said the rules specifically target Semenya and other female athletes who have naturally high testosterone.

Semenya appealed, but the Switzerland-based court said Wednesday though it found the IAAF rules discriminatory, "on the basic of the evidence submitted by the parties, such discrimination is a necessary, reasonable and proportionate means of achieving the IAAF's aim of preserving the integrity of female athletics in the restricted events."

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The court expressed concern over the IAAF continuing to use the rules in the long term "unless constant attention is paid to the fairness of how the regulations are implemented."

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"Sometimes it's better to react with no reaction," Semenya tweeted. In a trademark of her determination over the long controversy, she wrote Tuesday, "Don't trade your authenticity for approval."

The court said once its executive summary for the decision is published, it can be appealed to the Swiss Federal Tribunal within 30 days. The ruling requires athletes to adhere to the rules to qualify for the Olympic Games and other international events.

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Ross Tucker, a sports scientist who supports Semenya, said reducing her testosterone would prevent her from being a world-class athlete. He told The Guardian she may take up running the 5,000-meter race, where the testosterone rules are not enforced.

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