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Fans plead with Caster Semenya not to quit following testosterone ruling

Fans plead with Caster Semenya not to quit following testosterone ruling

South Africa's Caster Semenya athletes

Fans of  South African middle-distance runner Caster Semenya have urged her not to quit sports after she posted a cryptic tweet.

The Olympic gold medalist posted a tweet yesterday with an image which read: ‘Knowing when to walk away is wisdom. Being able to walk away is courage. Walking away with your head held high is dignity.’

Supporters of Semenya took to Twitter to offer their encouragement in the replies to her tweet, writing ‘Please do not give up’ and ‘We are behind you, Caster!’

It comes after Semenya lost her appeal against the International Association of Athletics Federation’s (IAAF) rules on testosterone suppression.

Semenya had hoped to overturn IAAF regulations, which are designed to lower testosterone levels in intersex athletes.

However, on Wednesday (1 May) the Court of Arbitration for Sport – the highest court in international sports – ruled that female athletes with elevated testosterone will have to take suppressants to compete in certain races.

The court’s decision is a significant blow for trans athletes. Rules requiring testosterone suppression in sports have been previously been condemned by the UN.

However, opponents of trans athletes freely competing in women’s sports have praised the court’s decision.

‘I run naturally, the way I was born’

Semenya had described the IAAF’s rules on testosterone suppression as ‘unfair’, saying ‘[I] run naturally, the way I was born’.

The 28-year-old has hyperandrogenism, an intersex condition which causes higher testosterone levels.

Opinions are divided as to whether or not the testosterone levels caused by hyperandrogenism give intersex athletes an advantage.

In previous statements, Morgan Carpenter, the co-executive director of Intersex Human Rights Australia, has said: ‘There is no published, transparent and reproducible evidence of a clear […] advantage by women athletes born with variations of sex characteristics.’

‘Exclusion from women’s competitive sport is discriminatory under such circumstances,’ Carpenter added.

Prior to the ruling, the United Nation’s (UN) top human rights group had condemned moves to force female athletes to regulate testosterone levels.

In a rare intervention into the sporting world, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR) has said forcing women athletes to undergo ‘humiliating and harmful medical procedures’ to cut testosterone levels could breach international human rights rules.

‘Trying to create as much as a level playing field for female sport’

However, the decision was praised by some in the athletic world.

Former Olympic swimmer Shannon Davies said that Semenya had a ‘huge’ advantage over her competitors.

‘I think this is about trying to create as much as a level playing field for ‘female sport’. And when I say female sport, I mean 50% of the world’s population who are XX chromosome,’ Davies told CNN. ‘So while [Semenya] was raised as a girl, she had all the benefits of being born male.

‘And that Y chromosome that would give her high levels of testosterone and put her through male puberty. And that makes between 8-12% difference in elite sport between males and females, which is huge.’

Tennis legend Martina Navratilova also commended the decision. She said there should be a ‘case-by-case’ approach on inclusion in sports, noting that no ‘one rule’ will work for everyone.

Navratilova also advocated for gender barriers when discussing the topic of trans athletes participating in professional sports. She went on to express concern that, without certain restrictions, some men might ‘proclaim’ themselves as trans in order to compete in women’s sport.

The tennis star and long-time gay rights activist had come under fire for making transphobic comments in the past.