An international sport governing body says Caster Semenya is welcome to enter men’s events if she’s not willing to take medicine to lower her testosterone levels.
This comes after the lesbian middle-distance runner lost her appeal against the International Association of Athletics Federation’s (IAAF) rules on testosterone suppression.
The South-African athlete had hoped to overturn IAAF regulations, which aim to lower testosterone levels in intersex athletes. However, on 1 May, the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that female athletes with elevated testosterone will have to take suppressants to compete in certain races.
The decision is a crushing blow for Semenya, as well as for intersex and trans athletes.
Female athletes with high testosterone levels can compete with men
Today (8 May), IAAF released a statement in response to a letter from the World Medical Association (WMA).
They announced that female athletes with high testosterone levels that participate in the 400m hurdles, 800m and 1 500m and mile would be welcome to compete with male athletes if they’re not comfortable taking medicine to lower their testosterone levels.
Can Semenya take part in women’s competitions?
If Semenya refuses to take testosterone-suppressant medicine, the only way for her to compete in the female classification would be, according to the IAAF:
‘at any competition that is not an International Competition: in any event, without restriction;
‘and at International Competitions: in any discipline other than track events between 400m and a mile.’
Caster Semenya will resist
Fans aren’t happy with the latest turn the controversy took. They tweeted in support of Semenya, who posted an illustration of a raised fist on 8 May.
— Caster Semenya (@caster800m) May 8, 2019
Many tweeted criticizing IAAF for its decision.
We are talking about caster semenya, an 800m /1500m track athlete. What other sport in this world is there a current issue with testosterone. Bro abeg I’m. It one to argue and all. So just dead this issue. I wish you can change your thought process, but again I no be good.
— Damidino ✨ (@damiolug) May 8, 2019
CASTER SEMENYA IS NOT A MAN
— thicke buttowski (@anentirethato) May 8, 2019
The new IAAF gender rules
Sports24 reports that the WMA letter urged doctors not to enforce controversial new IAAF gender rules for classifying female athletes. They warned that attempts to do so would breach ethical codes.
‘We have strong reservations about the ethical validity of these regulations,’ WMA president Leonid Eidelman said. Eidelman also called the IAAF study ‘weak’.
In an official statement, IAAF said their research was based on evidence taken from the past 15 years. They also explained they submit the study to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and discussed during the hearing.
‘The IAAF Regulations in this matter are not based on a single study, but on many scientific publications and observations from the field during the last 15 years,’ they said.
‘The Panel has accepted the validity of this evidence and has recently decided to uphold the IAAF Regulations.’
Investigations on female athletes with high testosterone levels
In a further statement, the IAAF highlighted the importance of carrying ‘an extensive investigation’ to reach a diagnosis, and to clarify the individual’s gender identity in cases such as those of adolescents ‘raised as female and experiencing a masculinising puberty’.
‘It is also important to exclude a gonadal malignancy since some 46XY DSDs are associated with an increased risk of cancer. If the individual has a female gender identity, a suitable form of treatment is recommended to lower the testosterone level, provided the patient accepts it herself. In worldwide clinical practice, male gonads are often removed, but pharmacological treatments to reduce testosterone levels are also used.’