Athletics Sports

Caster Semenya shifts focus to legal battle against World Athletics

Double Olympic 800m champion Caster Semenya has set a new direction for her career. Her primary goal is no longer to clinch medals on the track but rather to continue her legal battle against World Athletics. She aims to challenge the regulations that require female athletes with differences in sexual development (DSDs) to medically lower their testosterone levels. According to Semenya, these regulations discriminate against athletes with hyperandrogenism, a condition characterised by elevated levels of testosterone, a hormone known for its role in increasing muscle mass and strength.

While still dedicated to her training, Semenya has seemingly shelved her competitive track career, choosing to focus on coaching and persisting in her legal crusade to abolish the regulations. She stated, “My last chance to win at the Olympics was in 2016; Paris is not my goal. It is more about winning my battles against the authorities and me fighting for what is right. In running, I have achieved everything I ever wanted. They have never stopped me from being the great athlete I am. I went four years unbeaten; I’ve done my part. It is no longer about me fighting to compete; it is about fighting for what is right. Fighting for the upcoming generation because there are a lot of kids who are affected by the same ruling. This battle will not finish now. We will fight until the end.”

In a significant development, Europe’s top human rights court ruled in favour of Semenya in July, with a majority decision of four to three. The court determined that her appeal to the Swiss Federal Tribunal had not received a fair hearing after her case was initially dismissed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The forthcoming decision on whether this verdict will be referred to the European Court of Human Rights’ 17-member Grand Chamber is scheduled for next Monday.

Semenya stressed that her struggle is not only a personal one but also a fight for humanity and inclusivity. She is particularly concerned about the younger generation, stating, “This young, upcoming generation cannot face the same scrutiny, the same judgement. They must be treated right.” Semenya believes that World Athletics’ regulations have a racial dimension, explaining, “There is no pink-skinned person who is affected by it (the regulations). It is only for brown-skinned females. That is the simple truth.” She questioned whether these regulations serve the best interests of women’s sports or only certain women.

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World Athletics has refuted Semenya’s claims, asserting, “World Athletics has only ever been interested in protecting the female category. If we don’t, then women and young girls will not choose sports. That is, and has always been, the Federation’s sole motivation.” According to a spokesperson for the organisation, DSD conditions are not limited to any specific region but occur worldwide. The spokesperson explained, “In Africa, like in other developing areas or countries, the diagnosis often comes later because there is a lack of postnatal monitoring and checks. This occurs for many reasons, and much is being done in some countries to address this.”

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