Olympic Runner Challenges New IAAF Testosterone Rules

Olympic champion runner Caster Semenya has requested a ruling from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) overturning new testosterone rules implemented by the international athletics federation. Though the rule at present only concerns specific running races, a ruling by CAS could set precedents for other Olympic sports.

Semenya is a South African runner who won Olympic gold in the 800m in both London and Rio. According to a CAS release, she has challenged new rules by the international athletics federation (IAAF) that would come into effect this coming November. You can read the full CAS release here.

In April, the IAAF announced new rules governing female athletes competing in events 400 meters and longer. The new rules are aimed at female athletes with higher-than-normal levels of testosterone, and the IAAF says the new regulations are about leveling the playing field. Female athletes with blood testosterone levels above a certain threshold would be required to either lower their testosterone level or compete in a male or intersex classification. You can read more about those rules here.

The BBC reported at the time that the new rules were expected to affect Semenya, who had previously been asked to undertake gender testing by “athletics chiefs,” though no results had ever been made public.

Semenya spoke to the BBC today about her challenging of the new rules.

“It is not fair,” she said in the BBC piece. “I just want to run naturally, the way I was born.

“I am Mokgadi Caster Semenya. I am a woman and I am fast.”

The IAAF announcement of the new rules says that most women have low levels (0.12 to 1.79 nmol/L) of testosterone circulating naturally in their blood. Men’s levels are typically around 7.7-29.4 nmol/L, per the release, which also says “no female would have serum levels of natural testosterone at 5 nmol/L or above unless they have DSD or a tumour.”

DSD stands for “Difference of Sexual Development,” and the IAAF release made clear that athletes with a DSD aren’t cheating.

“The revised rules are not about cheating,” the release says, “no athlete with a DSD has cheated, they are about levelling the playing field to ensure fair and meaningful competition in the sport of athletics.”

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Coach T

“The revised rules are not about cheating,” the release says, “no athlete with a DSD has cheated, they are about levelling the playing field to ensure fair and meaningful competition in the sport of athletics.”

This seems fair. While unfortunate for athletes like Semenya, if the IAAF doesn’t take a definitive stance on this, women’s sports will be completely dominated by people with a Y chromosome in the future.


Then use biopassport to determine whether an athlete is altering their individual natural level. That at least would represent an athlete violating a set rule, rather than punishing a natural advantage. One could have just as easily claimed there should be a maximum height or hand size.

Coach T

I don’t think there should be a limit to hand size or height when it comes to women’s sports but I do think there should be a fairly strict limit on the number of testicles you can have. I was under the impression that Semenya has 2.

I’m not saying I know what the perfect solution is and I certainly feel bad for her because she is not a cheater and this has obviously been a very humiliating ordeal for her. I just think this is a relatively even handed decision by the IAAF.

Ol' Longhorn

I find it hilarious that your name is “Coach T.”


that’s garbage let her run

Sum Ting Wong

There are babies born where the genitals are non definitive & a decision is made . In Semenya’s case it was a South African rural setting & they did their best . I also think there are quite a few female athletes around in this category now & in history . I can sadly remember the mocking by the US media when the Polish gold medallist 1930s sprinter was later a road accident victim & proclaimed to be a man!!! They were gleeful . She grew up in Polack country USA & a similar decision was taken to her gender . I think these ppl are special . If they were brought up as a girl , let them continue… Read more »


I think this is the first time I’ve ever liked one of your posts.

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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