Champion sprinter Caster Semenya has lost her appeal against regulations limiting testosterone levels in certain women's athletic events. The judges found the rule "discriminatory" but also said limits were necessary.
A Swiss-based panel ruled against South African athlete Caster Semenya on Wednesday, rejecting Semenya's appeal against regulations to limit testosterone for female middle-distance runners.
Semenya is believed to be intersex. She has demanded arbitration after the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) announced plans to impose testosterone limits on female athletes with differences in sexual development (DSD).
According to the IAAF, unusually high testosterone levels give the athletes a competitive advantage in events from 400 meters to one mile (1609 meters). Last month, the UN Human Rights Council publically slammed the IAAF rules as "unnecessary, humiliating, and harmful."
In Wednesday's verdict, the Court of Arbitration for Sport's panel (CAS) said the IAAF's new rules were "discriminatory."
At the same time "such discrimination is a necessary, reasonable and proportionate means" to preserve the integrity of female athletics, the court said.
The South African athlete responded by tweeting an emoji of somebody shrugging and an image that read it was sometimes better "to react with no reaction."
A response released by her lawyers also cites Semenya as saying the IAAF rules "targeted" her specifically.
"For a decade the IAAF has tried to slow me down, but this has actually made me stronger," she was quoted as saying. "The decision of the CAS will not hold me back. I will once again rise above and continue to inspire young women and athletes in South Africa and around the world."
Racing against men?
Semenya, who won Olympic gold medals in the 800 meters in 2012 and 2016, would now be required to take medication which would suppress her testosterone levels in order to continue competing in this race.
Originally, the IAAF rule was meant to apply to the 400-meter, 800-meter and 1,500-meter events. The body had planned to start to enforce the rules in November last year, but the implementation was pushed back because of the case. Following the Wednesday verdict, the IAAF said the limits will go into force on May 8 this year.
Athletes with unusually high testosterone would be required to change events or race against men if they do not take the medication.
However, the CAS panel also advised the IAAF to hold off applying the rules to the 1,500-meter race and above until more evidence was available that testosterone levels significantly affected runners' performance.
Rules approved but with hefty caveats
The Swiss-based court was divided in the ruling, with one out of three judges objecting to the decision. The panel also said it had "some serious concerns as to the future practical application of these DSD regulations."
These concerns included that some athletes may not be able to keep complying with the regulations, as well as side effects of hormonal treatment. The CAS panel "strongly encouraged" the IAAF to take this into account when applying the rules, and noted the regulations might need to be modified in the future to be fair.
In their response, the IAAF said it noted the court's concerns and pledged to "keep all practical matters under periodic review."
dj/msh (AP, Reuters)