Semenya files legal challenge against IAAF’s new ‘sexist’ policy

The athlete has described the rule change as discriminatory and in violation of human rights.

Caster Semenya has filed legal papers at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne to challenge the International Association of Athletics Federations’ (IAAF’s) rule change on testosterone levels.

The IAAF’s new rule comes into effect in November and applies only to women competing over distances ranging from 400m to the mile (1.609km).

The IAAF was widely accused by critics in April of victimising Semenya in particular with the imminent application of the new rule, as she excels at the entire range of distances that are affected.

The rule change stipulates that any athlete who is determined to have a difference of sexual development that leads to a testosterone level of five nanomoles per litre or higher and is androgen-sensitive must meet new criteria to compete. The only way Semenya could meet such standards is if she were to take testosterone-lowering drugs.

In her court papers, Semenya described the regulations as “discriminatory, irrational, unjustifiable, and in violation of the IAAF Constitution, the Olympic Charter, the laws of Monaco, the laws of jurisdictions in which international competitions are held, and of universally recognised human rights”.

Indian sprinter Dutee Chand said in April the new rules were wrong and offered her legal help to Semenya. Chand won a court battle for her right to compete with a hormonal imbalance after being excluded from the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

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

“This is about our responsibility as a sport federation to ensure a level playing field,” Coe said.

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

“This is not about cheating. No hyperandrogenic athlete has cheated,” Coe said.

However, the SA sports minister slammed the ruling as “diabolical”.

South African law professor Steve Cornelius also resigned from the IAAF disciplinary tribunal at the start of May in protest.

In a strongly worded letter addressed to Coe, Cornelius said he did not want to associate himself with an organisation that “insists on ostracising certain individuals, all of them female, for no other reason than being what they were born to be”.

He said the new “warped ideology” was based on the same kind of thinking that had led to some of the worst injustices in history and said he would not be able to apply the new policy in good conscience.

He encouraged others to follow his example and “take a strong stand against this injustice”.

“I am confident that history will judge you harshly,” Cornelius added.

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