The treatment of South Africa’s golden girl Caster Semenya is disgraceful.
This week the IAAF, the world athletics governing body, adopted new rules that says women with high levels of naturally occurring testosterone can only compete if they take medication to reduce them. The rules apply to athletes competing from 400m to a mile.
These rules will certainly affect the 27-year-old Semenya, the reigning world and Olympic champion over 800m. In fact, South African sports scientist Ross Tucker went on to say that these new requirements could cost Semenya between “five to seven seconds over 800m”, which could mean the difference of finishing first and probably finishing last.
Since bursting on to the international athletics scene with a gold at the 2009 World Championships, Semenya, who earlier this month completed the 800m and 1 500m gold double at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in Australia, has been plagued by the debate over whether or not she should be allowed to compete internationally.
She’s been ridiculed, subjected to gender tests and even forced to take medication to reduce her testosterone levels. She has always been in the limelight because of her dominant displays and powerful physique related to hyperandrogenism, the medical condition which causes women to produce high levels of male sex hormones.
She yesterday found an ally in Indian sprinter Dutee Chand, who said the new rules on women’s testosterone levels were “wrong” and offered her legal help. It was Chand who won a court battle for her right to compete with a hormonal imbalance, after being excluded from the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
As Chand said in 2015: “I want to remain who I am and compete again,” before she won her case at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Can’t Semenya be allowed to do what she does best? And that’s run fast…