A Swiss court ruling that blocks South African Caster Semenya from defending her world 800m title in Doha in September creates much-needed “parity and clarity” in athletics, the sport’s governing body said Wednesday.
A judge at the Swiss Federal Tribunal on Monday revoked a temporary suspension on the IAAF’s controversial testosterone-curbing rules, meaning two-time Olympic champion Semenya can no longer compete in events between the 400m and mile, as she did in June and July.
“The IAAF welcomes the Swiss Federal Tribunal’s decision today to revoke its Super-Provisional Order of 31 May 2019 after hearing the IAAF’s arguments,” the International Association of Athletics Federations said after the judge’s ruling was made public Wednesday.
“This decision creates much-needed parity and clarity for all athletes as they prepare for the World Championships in Doha this September.”
Semenya had appealed to the Swiss court in May after failing to get the new IAAF regulations overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
The IAAF added that it would maintain its position in the remainder of proceedings at the Swiss Federal Tribunal that “there are some contexts, sport being one of them, where biology has to trump gender identity, which is why the IAAF believes (and the CAS agreed) that the DSD (differences of sexual development) regulations are a necessary, reasonable and proportionate means of protecting fair and meaningful competition in elite female athletics”.
Semenya is classified as a woman, was raised as a woman and races as a woman.
But for the IAAF, women like Semenya, with certain masculine attributes due to DSD, are classified, biologically, as men. It is a position hotly contested by South African officials.
In the build-up to the 2009 world championships in Berlin, where Semenya went on to win gold in the 800m, the South African had to undergo gender verification testing to confirm her eligibility to compete in the women’s category.
She was subsequently put on medication to reduce her testosterone levels, spending six months sidelined by the IAAF.
Semenya, born with the “46 XY” chromosome rather than the XX chromosome most females have, described the experience as like that of being treated like a “human guinea pig” and vowed never to again allow the IAAF to enforce medication upon her in order to compete.
The Swiss Federal Tribunal, in its ruling released Wednesday, was also not optimistic for Semenya’s ongoing appeal.
It concluded “in a first summary examination, that Caster Semenya’s appeal does not appear with high probability to be well founded”.
“The CAS, after thoroughly evaluating the expert evidence, found that the ’46 XY DSD’ characteristic has a direct impact on performance in sport, which could never be achieved by other women,” the tribunal said.
“Thus, with the participation of a female athlete with ’46 XY DSD’ in the ‘protected class women’, a basic principle of top-class sports, namely fair competition, is disregarded from the outset.”
Semenya on Tuesday expressed her disappointment at being ruled out of defending her title, adding: “This will not deter me from continuing my fight for the human rights of all of the female athletes concerned.”
She later tweeted: “People can be mean. Don’t take it personally. It says nothing about you, but a lot about them.”
Semenya followed that up on Wednesday by saying: “Determined spirit is unstoppable.”