Caster Semenya Appeals To Swiss Supreme Court To Stop IAAF's Discrimination Against Her

Illustration for article titled Caster Semenya Appeals To Swiss Supreme Court To Stop IAAF's Discrimination Against Her
Photo: Francois Nel (Getty)

South African runner Caster Semenya is officially appealing the discriminatory regulations put in place to stop her from competing in her best event, the 800 meters.


Since 2009, Semenya has been targeted by the international governing body for track, the International Association of Athletics Federations, as well as officials connected to the broader Olympic movement. These organizations claim Semenya has a naturally high level of testosterone, and that means she should not be allowed to compete with other women. They have chosen to ignore basic facts about how gender is determined, the violations of human rights and medical ethics involved in gender testing as well as its racist history, the many other genetic advantages some elite athletes have, the apparent targeting of women from the Global South, and the fact that the data their decision relies on is so flawed that other scientists have called it out.

Despite all of that, many powerful people have decided that cooking up rules to discriminate against Semenya is the best use of their time. In the latest attempt, the IAAF declared that women in certain events—which just so happen to include the 800 meters—may not exceed arbitrary testosterone limits, and women who do will have to seek medical treatment to get their testosterone levels down. Despite the piles of evidence on Semenya’s side, the Court of Arbitration for Sport sided with the IAAF. They used the same bizarro reasoning, saying that discrimination was necessary for “preserving the integrity of female athletics,” conveniently ignoring much larger issues like underfunding, harassment, and abuse.

Now Semenya’s case will go to Switzerland’s federal supreme court. Semenya’s lawyer said in a statement, via the BBC, “The IAAF regulations violate the most fundamental principles of Swiss public policy. In the race for justice, human rights must win over sporting interests.” Said Semenya: “I am a woman and I am a world-class athlete. The IAAF will not drug me or stop me from being who I am.”

Senior editor at Deadspin