Published: Fri, April 27, 2018
Sci-tech | By Eric Barnett

IAAF wants Semenya to lower her testosterone levels or quit, says report

IAAF wants Semenya to lower her testosterone levels or quit, says report

The IAAF released new gender eligibility guidelines this week that ban intersex athletes from competing in middle-distance events from the 400m to the mile in global competition unless they artificially reduce their naturally occurring testosterone through hormone therapy.

Under the new rules, Semenya will either have to take prescribed medication to allow her to compete, or she must move to longer-distance running.

"Athletics' governing body, the IAAF, will reportedly announce the creation of a new female classification to be known as Athletes with Differences of Sexual Development [DSDs], which includes those with hyperandrogenism, such as Semenya. It does not want to risk discouraging those aspirations by having unfair competition conditions that deny athletes a fair opportunity to succeed".

This would mean two things for Caster Semenya, she can either use hormonal therapy if her levels are above the required limit or she can change the distances which she runs.

However, the rule was cancelled in 2015, after an Indian sprinter, Dutee Chand, challenged her disqualification from female events in the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

IAAF president Sebastian Coe says the athletics ruling body has "a responsibility to ensure a level playing field for athletes" as recent evidence (IAAF funded a study in 2017) shows that testosterone-either natural or artificially inserted-"provides significant performance advantages in female athletes".

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Semanya had her sexual orientation questioned and was forced to undergo gender test among others in 2009 after IAAF noted rapid improvements in her track record, combined with unusual physique. She is also a three-time gold medalist at the World Championships in the event and a two-time gold medalist at the Commonwealth Games. Clearly it would impact on her performance. The South African comfortably won 800m gold at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. If they do not wish to take the medication they can compete in worldwide competitions in disciplines other than track events from 400m to the mile.

These new regulations, approved by the IAAF Council in March, will come into effect from November 1, 2018, and replace the previous Regulations Governing Eligibility of Females with Hyperandrogenism to Compete in women's competition, which no longer apply anywhere in the sport.

Semenya herself has steered clear of the debate following the publication of the new rules Thursday morning, but unleashed philosophical tweets on her official handle.

"We have seen in a decade and more of research that 7.1 in every 1000 elite female athletes in our sport have elevated testosterone levels, the majority are in the restricted events covered by these regulations".

"Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse, it has", she said in a telephone interview on Wednesday.

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