SA professor resigns from IAAF in protest at ‘Caster Semenya policy’

Prof Steve Cornelius. Picture: UP

Prof Steve Cornelius. Picture: UP

Law expert Steve Cornelius says he won’t be able to apply the new policy against female athletes in good conscience.

South African law professor Steve Cornelius resigned from the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) disciplinary tribunal in protest at the world athletics body’s introduction of rules forcing some female athletes to undergo testosterone-reducing treatment or face bans.

Cornelius is a professor in and head of the department of private law and director of the centre for intellectual property law at the University of Pretoria.

He was appointed to the IAAF tribunal late last year and is also a member of the Independent Anti-doping Hearing Panel of the South African Institute for Drug-free Sports.

The tribunal was introduced in response to various doping scandals that have plagued the IAAF over the years. It hears and determines all breaches of the Integrity Code of Conduct in accordance with its rules and regulations.

The IAAF announced its amended hyperandrogenism rule last week. It forces female athletes born with the condition to reduce their natural testosterone levels.

Caster Semenya’s future as an elite middle-distance runner is now in doubt following the announcement. Facing natural hormone restrictions if she intends to continue competing in middle-distance events, the world 800m champion could struggle to break the two-minute barrier in the near future.

The SA sports minister slammed the amendment as diabolical. The ANC also called the policy “blatantly racist” last week.

The policy is likely to be challenged in the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). Cornelius strongly believes it is illegal and against human rights.

In a strongly worded letter addressed to IAAF President Sebastian Coe, and which has been widely shared on Twitter, 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”.

IAAF president Sebastian Coe.

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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