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5 minute read
26 Apr 2018
11:09 pm

ANC slams IAAF’s new testosterone regulations


In the scathing statement, the liberation movement called on the South African government to challenge the new set of regulations.

Caster Semenya won the 800m gold in Rio 2016. Now gold in London 2012 also winks. Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images.

“The ANC has always understood sport as a unifier and a tool to bring people and nations together. It is for this reason and many that the ANC cannot ignore the attempt by the IAAF to discriminate and exclude athletes. These new regulations infringe on the Human Rights of athletes, targeting mainly those in East Europe, Asia and the African continent. The racial undertones of this cannot go unnoticed,” the party said via a statement from national spokesperson Pule Mabe.

“The regulations are a painful reminder of our past where an unjust government specifically legislated laws for certain activists in society to stifle their fight against an unjust system. The IAAF uses the same tactic to exclude those who have defined the past decade as champions and treasures of their home countries.”

“We call on government to challenge this grossly unfair, unjust and blatant racist attempt by the IAAF to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and have these regulations set aside. The ANC will stand with Caster Semenya in yet another attempt by international sport bodies to exclude and discriminate against her,” said the ANC.

“We call on all sports loving people to stand and defend athletes against these anti-sport regulations that will not only prevent athletes from participating in sporting events but will also infringe on their human rights.”

On the other hand, the Women’s League of the ANC added their voice, saying the IAAF has “succumbed to the pressure of haters of” Semenya.

“In their concerted effort to please some of sore racists losers who cannot afford to see a black female South African athletes dominating the world in 400m and 800m,  the IAAF will compel female athletes with a high levels of testosterone to switch to the 5,000m and 10,000m or  to take medication that can be used on a daily basis in tablet form to lower the testosterone,” said ANCWL secretary general Meokgo Matuba.

“The ANCWL stands by Caster Semenya and calls all South Africans to support her and many women facing homophobic attacks”.

The new regulations require any athlete who has a Difference of Sexual Development (DSD) that means her levels of circulating testosterone (in serum) are five (5) nmol/L or above and who is androgen-sensitive to meet the following criteria to be eligible to compete in Restricted Events in an International Competition (or set a world record in a Restricted Event at competition that is not an International Competition):

(a) she must be recognised by law either as female or as intersex (or equivalent);

(b) she must reduce her blood testosterone level to below five (5) nmol/L for a continuous period of at least six months (eg., by use of hormonal contraceptives); and

(c) thereafter she must maintain her blood testosterone level below five (5) nmol/L continuously (ie: whether she is in competition or out of competition) for so long as she wishes to remain eligible.

These new regulations, approved by the IAAF Council in March, will come into effect from  November 1, 2018, and replace the previous Regulations Governing Eligibility of Females with Hyperandrogenism to Compete in women’s competition, which no longer apply anywhere in the sport.

“We want athletes to have the incentive to make the huge commitment and sacrifice required to excel in the sport, and to inspire new generations to join the sport and aspire to the same excellence,” said IAAF president Sebastian Coe.

“As the International Federation for our sport, we have a responsibility to ensure a level playing field for athletes. Like many other sports we choose to have two classifications for our competition – men’s events and women’s events.

“This means we need to be clear about the competition criteria for these two categories. Our evidence and data show that testosterone, either naturally produced or artificially inserted into the body, provides significant performance advantages in female athletes.

“The revised rules are not about cheating, 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 where success is determined by talent, dedication and hard work rather than other contributing factors.”

Most females (including elite female athletes) have low levels of testosterone circulating naturally in their bodies (0.12 to 1.79 nmol/L in blood); while after puberty the normal male range is much higher (7.7 – 29.4 nmol/L).

No female would have serum levels of natural testosterone at 5 nmol/L or above unless they have DSD or a tumour.

Individuals with DSDs can have very high levels of natural testosterone, extending into and even beyond the normal male range.

The amended rule affects middle-distance runners who were believed to be hyperandrogenic, including Caster Semenya, Kenyan athlete Margaret Wambui and Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi, who swept the podium in the 800m event at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

The IAAF had been widely accused by critics in recent weeks of victimising Semenya in particular with the imminent application of the new rule, as she excelled at the entire range of distances that were affected.

Though the athletics body had controversially opted not to apply the rule to strength-based disciplines such as the shot put and hammer throw, Coe said recently that a line had to be drawn in order to separate men’s and women’s divisions in competition.

Having struggled to find her best form between 2011 and 2015, with her natural testosterone levels apparently being suppressed by medication after she was subjected to gender tests in 2009, Semenya rocketed back into shape when the IAAF’s hyperandrogenism rule was provisionally suspended by the CAS three years ago.

She went on to win the Olympic 800m title in 2016 and the world title last year.

Semenya will be forced either to take medication to limit her body’s hormone production or step up in distance to the 5 000m event in order to sidestep the rule.

Semenya is a double Olympic champion in the women’s 800m, and recently completed a double-gold haul at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games with victories in the 800m and 1500m.

– African News Agency (ANA)