South African Olympic gold medalist runner Caster Semenya has lost her lengthy appeal to Switzerland’s Federal Supreme Court over the restrictions of naturally high female testosterone levels in female track & field athletes. World Athletics, the governing body of international track & field competition, changed the rules in 2019, making it so that athletes with sexual development disorders must take medication in order to compete in the 400m, 800m, or mile.
Semenya is an 800m specialist, having won gold at the 2009 and 2017 World Championships, as well as gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics. She was assigned female at birth, raised as a cis-gender woman, and has always identified as a female; however, she has XY chromosomes as a result of a sexual development disorder. The XY chromosomes lead Semenya to naturally produce a higher level of testosterone than what most females typically produce.
Therefore, due to the World Athletics rule change, if Semenya wants to compete in the 800m at the Tokyo Olympics next year, she will have to take medication to reduce her testosterone levels.
Semenya has indicated she will not take medication to lower her production of testosterone, and will instead be focused on running the 200m in Tokyo, thus getting around the 400m-and-up rule. She had some choice words about the World Athletics rule, saying “Excluding female athletes or endangering our health solely because of our natural abilities puts World Athletics on the wrong side of history.”
Semenya also posted this tweet shortly after news about the ruling broke today:
Chills my people,A man can change the rules but the very same man can not rule my life,What I'm saying is that I might have failed against them the truth is that I have won this battle long ago,Go back to my achievements then you will understand.Doors might be closed not locked.
— Caster Semenya (@caster800m) September 8, 2020
Although she had indicated earlier this year that she will be attempting to qualify for the Olympics in the 200m to bypass the new rule, she is currently 1.46 seconds off the Olympic qualifying standard in the event. In light of today’s ruling, Semenya says she is “considering all of her options, internationally and domestically.”
The topic of the rights of athletes who are non-binary in sports has become a hot-button topic the last few years, as governing bodies struggle to balance the rights of those athletes to compete with the fact that intersex and transgender athletes don’t fit into the binary competition that has been developed in the name of leveling playing fields.
- IOC Talks Around Transgender Athlete Guidelines for 2020 Olympics
- USA Swimming to follow IOC’s Transgender Policies for Summer Junior Nationals
- USA Swimming Recommended Practices for Gender Diverse Minor Athletes
- IOC Loosens Guidelines on Transgender Athlete Participation in Olympics
- Idaho Governor Signs Bill Limiting Transgender Women & Girls in School Sports
- IOC Expected to Toughen Restrictions on Transgender Athletes