1st of May 2019, Labor Day, goes down in history as the day that one of the highly anticipated landmark rulings in sports about a gender identity ruling shook the foundation of the field. This is through the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) ruling on new principles for international female athletes. We are referring to the loss of the Olympic champion Caster Semenya appeal, which was against the instigation of new principles targeted at regulating the athletes' levels of testosterone. These new rules targeted athletes with “difference in sex development” (DSD). Here is all you need to know about the case.
The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) is the body behind the introduction of the new testosterone rules to be applied to DSD athletes like Semenya. The new principles were supposed to be enacted on November 1st, 2018. This was until Caster, under The South African Ministry of Sports, decided to challenge the rules through The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
Caster Semenya gender
Unless you have not been following the various international women athletics championships, you know that Castor Semenya is a 28-year-old female and a South African double Olympic champion who is biologically considered as a “hyperandrogenous.” In other words, Caster Semenya testosterone levels and muscle formation are elevated when compared to other women athletes. She has been the reigning athletics queen in numerous 400m-1 mile races. Caster Semenya married her long term better half known as Violet Raseboya.
The 1st face of the ruling
It is important to note that it’s the three-person panel Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) that rejected Semenya's appeal. The ruling was achieved through a “majority” decision by the CAS panel. The verdict implies that all female DSD athletes like Semenya have no option but to enroll in a medication program aimed at reducing their testosterone levels. Failure to comply, Semenya and the rest of athletes will not be qualified to participate and compete in any IAAF athletics ranging from 400m-1 mile races.
The 2nd Face of the ruling
If you were waiting for the “BUT,” The Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) acknowledged that the ruling would lead to critical concerns especially in the future application of the rules. According to the CAS statement, the decision would cause “serious concerns as to the future practical application” of IAAF rules.
Caster Semenya response to the ruling
The ruling was a significant blow to Casper’s athletic career. In response, the 800m Olympic champion said that the International Association of Athletics Federations has always explicitly been targeting her. She went ahead to react by posting a Twitter status that reads “SOMETIMES IT’S BETTER TO REACT WITH NO REACTION.”
In a statement, 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 actually made me stronger. The decision of the 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.
The IAAF’s policy implementation
Thanks to the CAS ruling, the new rules under the IAAF’s policy are expected to take effect as from May 8th, 2019. This implies that every female DSD athlete will be required to comply by taking medication that will ensure their blood levels of testosterone fall below the approved 5 nmol/L limit. Additionally, the DSD athletes have to ensure that they maintain the low standards for an interrupted period of 6 months before getting an IAAF’s approval to participate in their 400m-1 mile races.
When it comes to 100m, 200m, and 100m hurdles, DSD athletes are still eligible to participate without the medication. After successful qualification, the athletes will be required to ensure that the low testosterone levels are maintained for the rest of their career. According to a 2018 statement by Sebastian Coe, IAAF President, the new rules were vital to IAAF given to their “responsibility to ensure a level playing field."
CAS findings and concerns
According to IAAF argument, DSD athletes are considered to possess an added advantage over the rest. As a result, a statement by CAS acknowledged the fact that its ruling panel was unable to find sufficient reasons for ruling out DSD principles as “invalid.” However, the Court of Arbitration for Sport admitted that the IAAF new rules and policies were “discriminatory” to all DSD athletes but yet “necessary.” CAS statement reads,” such discrimination is a necessary, reasonable and proportionate means of achieving the IAAF's aim of preserving the integrity of female athletics in the Restricted Events."
CAS also went ahead to point out some of their critical concerns about the new policy and application of the new testosterone rules. The first concern was their worry that numerous scenarios that might arise where athletes might end up breaking the IAAF official rule on levels of testosterone unintentionally.
The second concern was about the new rules that prevent DSD athletes from participating in 400m-1mile athletics and yet allowing them to participate in longer races. CAS questioned if the testosterone enabled DSD athletes to have a significant added advantage in the longer races such as the 1500m and mile races.
Lastly, CAS raised its concern on the resulting practical challenges that might face the DSD athletes in their career-long efforts of complying to the new rules. As a result, CAS advised IAAF to allow the DSD athletes to be eligible in participating in the 1500m and 1-mile athletics as they seek for more satisfactory evidence concerning the mater.
The decision did not only disappoint Semenya, but a large number of international sportsmen and women, different sports organizations, and human rights organizations. One such organization is The United Nations Human Rights Council. UNHRC regarded the CAS decision as “unnecessary, harmful, and humiliating." South Africa's sports minister referred to the decision as a "human rights violation.”
The South African Ministry of Sports also added that it is supporting Semenya and will ensure that an appeal is made against the CAS rule. According to the remarks made by Tokozile Xasa, the S.A. Sports Prime Minister, the ministry was greatly disappointed by the decision regarding it as a blow to all South Africans. The department plans to lobby and seek support from other athletic organizations in support of their quest of liberating Semenya from the CAS rules.
Caster Semenya latest news
On Friday, May 3rd, 2019, The 2019 IAAF Diamond League will be premiering for its tenth edition. The good news is that Semenya is eligible to participate in the Diamond League athletics that will be held in Doha, Qatar. She will be going to the competition with high hopes after winning the South African Athletics Championship 5,000m race.
Additionally, Caster Semenya is legally illegible for challenging the ruling by CAS. Through her lawyers, Casper has one more chance to appeal to the Swiss Tribunal Courts. The appeal is valid if made within the upcoming 30 days. According to a statement by Caster’s legal representatives, "Ms. Semenya is reviewing the decision with her legal team and considering whether to file an appeal."
Caster Semenya documentary in athletics
- 2009- won her first debut gold medal in Berlin World Championships at only 18 years.
- 2009-2010- Her participation in athletics was greatly influenced due to gender verification tests by IAAF. She was later approved to continue participating.
- 2011-new testosterone policies introduced hence putting her on the limelight.
- 2015- CAS overturns the new testosterone level rules.
- 2016-won a gold medal in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. She defeated the British athlete, Lynsey Sharp, who shed tears considering Semenya to having added advantage as a DSD.
- 2019-won gold medal in South African Athletics Championships 5000 meters.
Even though the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) rejected Caster Semenya appeal concerning the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) new rules, a good number of people, sports bodies, and The South African government are standing with Semenya to appeal the ruling. The ruling requires all DSD female athletes to undergo a consistent medication program to reduce their blood testosterone levels to the IAAF limit of below 5 nmol/L. The discriminative yet necessary ruling is set to bring many implications to all DSD athletes as well as IAAF officials.