World 800m champion Caster Semenya and other hyperandrogenic middle-distance runners continued to receive support from across the globe yesterday in the wake of a controversial rule applied by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) last week.
Professor Steve Cornelius of the University of Pretoria law faculty resigned as a member of the IAAF disciplinary tribunal in protest against the new regulation.
“On deep moral grounds, I cannot see myself part of a system in which I may be called upon to apply regulations which I deem to be fundamentally flawed and most likely unlawful in various jurisdictions around the globe,” Cornelius wrote in a letter to IAAF president Sebastian Coe.
“It would also be unethical for me to devote time and energy to expose the warped ideology behind the new regulations while serving on the disciplinary tribunal.
“It was at first an honour to be appointed to the IAAF tribunal but, sadly, I cannot with good conscience continue to associate myself with an organisation which insists on ostracising specific individuals, all of them female, for no reason other than being what they are born to be.
“The adoption of the new eligibility regulations for female classification is based on the same kind of ideology that has led to some of the worse injustices and atrocities in the history of our planet.”
In a paper he wrote in 2016, Cornelius pointed out that the IAAF was trying to protect women from having to compete against women with the supposed hormonal advantages of men, while there was no similar policy to protect men competing against other men with elevated levels of testosterone.
According to Cornelius, this implied female athletes were weak and require protection against other women who are deemed to be too masculine.
“Men, on the other hand, are presumably strong and do not require protection.
“The IAAF embarked on a slippery slope of bigotry, sexism and racism. They are seeking to defend the indefensible.
“Whether a female athlete may or may not have an unfair competitive advantage over other female athletes, merely because she has elevated natural levels of testosterone, is just as relevant as whether a male athlete with elevated levels of testosterone has an unfair competitive advantage over other male athletes.
“It is just as relevant as whether a high jumper who is over two metres tall has an unfair competitive advantage over an average athlete and it is just as relevant as whether a discus thrower with acromegaly has an unfair competitive advantage over an average athlete.”
Meanwhile, the Canadian national athletics federation said the IAAF rule required “rigorous review” before being implemented in November.
“Athletics Canada has serious concerns with last week’s announcement from the IAAF … we encourage full access for all Canadians to participate and compete in athletics, at every level of our sport free of discrimination,” the organisation said.
The IAAF’s announcement, which sparked a contentious world-wide debate, was allegedly aimed at sidelining Semenya.
The SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee, Athletics SA and government said they would meet to discuss the matter. They have not yet revealed whether they would contest the decision.
The new regulations would apply only to athletes competing over distances between 400m and the mile (1.609km) and would force women with hyperandrogenism to reduce their natural testosterone levels in order to compete internationally.
– Additional reporting ANA