Sun, Sep 08, 2019 - Page 11 News List

Semenya signs with soccer team

PLAY IN PEACE:The South African did not say whether she was retiring from track, but has hinted on social media that she would stop if forced to take medication


Tired, maybe, after 10 years of fighting track authorities, Caster Semenya has signed up to play with a South African soccer team.

Banned from competing in her preferred event, the two-time Olympic 800m champion might now be ready to give up running in favor of a sport where she is not forced to take hormone-suppressing medication.

Semenya on Friday wrote on Twitter that she had joined Johannesburg-based women’s club JVW FC, posting a photograph of herself smiling and holding up a jersey.

She said in a separate statement that she was looking forward to a “new journey.”

The club, which is owned by South Africa national women’s team captain Janine van Wyk, said that Semenya began training with the team this week, but she would not be registered to play league games until next year.

However, the timing is significant, as the South African women’s soccer season next year is to be in action at the same time as the Olympics in Tokyo.

“I am grateful for this opportunity and I appreciate the love and support I already get from the team,” the 28-year-old Semenya said. “I am looking forward to this new journey, and hopefully I can contribute as much as I can to the club.”

Semenya did not directly say if she was retiring from track and field, but she has hinted on numerous occasions on social media that she would be willing to give up if she is not allowed to compete in her favorite event without being forced to take medication to lower her natural testosterone level.

Semenya is barred from defending her 800m title at this month’s World Championships and cannot currently compete in any top-level races in distances from 400m to 1 mile after refusing to follow new International Association of Athletics Federations rules requiring her to reduce her testosterone by taking daily contraceptive pills or having surgery.

She is appealing against those rules at the Swiss Federal Tribunal — her second legal challenge against them — but faced a setback in July when the court provisionally upheld the rules, ending Semenya’s ambitions to defend her title at the Worlds in Doha. She last ran a competitive race in June.

In the hours after the provisional decision to uphold the testosterone regulations was announced, Semenya wrote on social media: “First chapter of my life done, looking forward to my second chapter.”

Her social media pages have also been littered lately with images of soccer balls, uniforms and cleats.

Unlike track, top-level soccer does not have any regulations forcing female players to lower naturally high testosterone levels.

The women’s league in South Africa is only semi-professional — the nation’s top players play overseas — but South Africa is bidding to host the next Women’s World Cup in 2023.

Van Wyk, a former Houston Dash defender and probably South Africa’s most successful female player, said that Semenya had played soccer when she was younger and “it is no shock that she has finally set her sights on playing competitive football.”

“I am extremely elated to have such an iconic athlete join my football club,” Van Wyk said. “I am absolutely honored that out of all the other women’s clubs around the world, she has chosen JVW as the club where she would like to start showcasing her football skills.”

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