Wed, Jun 05, 2019 - Page 16 News List

Suspend Semenya testosterone rules, court orders IAAF


Caster Semenya on Monday won an interim ruling in her battle against the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) when the Swiss Federal Tribunal ordered the governing body to suspend its testosterone regulations, raising the prospect of her competing at the world championships without having to take hormone suppressing medication.

The decision temporarily lifts the contentious rules, at least until the IAAF responds with arguments to the court to restore them. The IAAF has until June 25 to do that.

Should the IAAF fail to overturn the ruling, the regulations are to remain suspended until Semenya’s full appeal is heard by a panel of Swiss federal judges. That could take up to a year or more, meaning the 28-year-old South African might be cleared to run unrestricted in her favored event in remaining Diamond League meetings and the world championships in Doha, Qatar, in September and October.

“I am thankful to the Swiss judges for this decision,” Semenya said. “I hope that following my appeal I will once again be able to run free.”

The appeal is the second time the two-time Olympic 800m champion has challenged the IAAF rules. Semenya lost her case against the IAAF at the Court of Arbitration for Sport on May 1 and the rules came into effect on May 8.

They meant that Semenya was not allowed to run in any top-level 800m race unless she medically reduced her elevated testosterone levels.

Dorothee Schramm, the Swiss-based lawyer leading Semenya’s appeal, said the court “has granted welcome temporary protection to Caster Semenya.”

“This is an important case that will have fundamental implications for the human rights of female athletes,” Schramm said.

The ruling has implications for other athletes, too.

Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi and Margaret Wambui of Kenya, both Olympic medalists in the 800m, have said they are also affected by the rules.

The regulations applied only to some races, from 400m to 1 mile.

Semenya is the reigning Olympic champion and a three-time world champion in the 800m. She also has a world championships bronze medal in the 1,500m, which the IAAF also made a restricted race.

Semenya has battled track authorities for the right to run in what she describes as her natural form for a decade, ever since she was subjected to gender verification tests by the IAAF at the age of 18 when she won her first world title in 2009.

The dispute is viewed as one of the most controversial and complex to face sport.

The IAAF rules apply to female athletes with medical conditions known as “differences of sex development” and specifically those born with the typical male XY chromosome pattern.

The athletes also have testosterone levels higher than the typical female range, which the IAAF argues gives them an unfair athletic advantage over other women because the hormone helps build muscle and increases oxygen levels in the blood.

To compete in the Olympics, world championships or other international athletics events, each athlete was to have to reduce her testosterone level and keep it within the acceptable range for six months prior to competing.

The IAAF gave three medical options to do that: A daily contraceptive pill, a monthly testosterone-blocking injection or surgery.

The treatments could inhibit athletic performance, but by how much is uncertain, while also posing risks of other negative side effects.

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