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Semenya says discrimination verdict was ‘long time coming’

THE verdict of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in the case of Caster Semenya raises “serious questions” about the validity of World Athletics’ requirement that female athletes with high natural testosterone levels take drugs to lower it, the South African athlete said.

The ECHR ruled, by a slender majority of four votes to three, on Tuesday that the double Olympic 800m champion’s original appeal against World Athletics regulations had not been properly heard by the Swiss Federal Tribunal, criticising the process followed rather than the verdict reached.

Semenya, 32, is an athlete with XY chromosomes and differences in sexual development (DSDs). She has a condition known as hyperandrogenism, which is characterised by higher than usual levels of testosterone, a hormone that increases muscle mass and strength, and the body’s ability to use oxygen.

She has been fighting the regulations put in place in May 2019 which forced her to medically lower her testosterone levels in order to compete.


“I am elated at the outcome of the ruling. It has been a long time coming,” Semenya said in a statement. “I have and will always stand up for discrimination of any kind in sports. I have suffered a lot at the hands of the powers that be and have been treated poorly.

“The hard work that I have put into being the athlete I am, has been questioned. My rights were violated. My career was impacted. All of it is so damaging. Mentally, emotionally, physically and financially.”

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Reuters understands the Swiss government intends to refer Tuesday’s ruling to the ECHR Grand Chamber for review. That process could take up to two years.

“Justice has spoken but this is only the beginning,” Semenya said.

“My case at the European Court of Human Rights was against the ruling handed down by the government of Switzerland, and not World Athletics itself, but this decision will still be significant for all sportspersons in throwing doubt on the future of all similar rules.

“My hope is that Word Athletics, and indeed all sporting bodies, reflect on the statements made by the European Court of Human Rights and ensure that they respect the dignity and human rights of the athletes they deal with.”

World Athletics said in a statement to Reuters on Wednesday that it stood by its rules.

“As the global governing body of athletics, we must and do consider the human rights of all our athletes,” it said. “Sports regulations by their very nature restrict people’s rights. When those rights are in conflict, it is our duty to decide if that restriction justifies the aim, which in this case is to protect female sport.

World Athletics said it believed the DSD regulations were a “necessary, reasonable and proportionate means of protecting fair competition in the female category” as the Court of Arbitration for Sport and Swiss Federal Tribunal found after assessing the evidence.

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“This case was filed against the state of Switzerland, rather than World Athletics, and the finding is against Switzerland not World Athletics. The current DSD regulations, approved by the World Athletics Council in March 2023, will remain in place,” World Athletics added.


By The African Mirror