Athletics: Olympic runner Caster Semenya loses appeal on testosterone rules

South African runner Caster Semenya.
South African runner Caster Semenya. Photo credit: Reuters

South African Caster Semenya insists she will not be slowed down, after losing her legal battle with athletics' world governing body (IAAF) over its controversial eligibility rules concerning testosterone levels in female runners.   

ON Thursday (NZT), the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled the regulations restricting testosterone levels in female athletes in selected events, were "discriminatory" but "necessary".   

As a result, two-time Olympic 800m champion Semenya will have to take testosterone-suppressing medication.   

The IAAF has given her - and other athletes with naturally-occurring high levels of testosterone - a week to reduce their levels of the hormone to within the required limit, if she wants to be eligible to defend her world title in Doha in October.   

Semenya said: "I know that the IAAF's regulations have always targeted me specifically.   

"For a decade, the IAAF has tried to slow me down, but this has made me stronger.   

"The decision of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) will not hold me back. I will once again rise above, and continue to inspire young women and athletes in South Africa and around the world."    

Semenya is considering whether to appeal against the decision.   

A statement issued on her behalf said: "Her unique genetic gift should be celebrated, not regulated." It added that she believed the regulations would be overturned.   

The 28-year-old has one of the various genetic conditions collectively known as differences or disorders of sex development (DSD). She and Athletics South Africa had launched a legal challenge to the rules, which concern athletes competing in events from the 400m to the mile, claiming they were unlawful.   

But CAS said in a statement: "By majority, the CAS panel has dismissed the requests for arbitration, considering that the claimants were unable to establish that the DSD regulations were 'invalid'."

Semenya has been the subject of intense scrutiny ever since she burst onto the scene at the 2009 world championships in Berlin, where she won the first of her three world titles.   

Aged just 18, she achieved that feat despite the emotional strain caused by international media speculation about a gender-verification test, after complaints from rivals about her muscular build.

But despite the award in favour of the IAAF, CAS said its panel "expressed some serious concerns as to the future practical application" of the DSD regulations.   

CAS said its decision could "change in the future, unless constant attention is paid to the fairness of how the regulations are implemented".

The IAAF said it was grateful to CAS for its judgement and was pleased its regulations had been upheld.   

It said the regulations would come into effect on May 8.   

The regulations require athletes to reduce their testosterone levels to below 5 nmol/L for a continuous period of at least six months before competition.   

But the IAAF said, because of the delay in implementing the rules caused by Semenya's legal challenge, it would accept affected athletes who comply with the limit starting on or before May 8 as eligible.