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Caster Semenya Won't Be Allowed To Defend Her 800-Meter Title At The World Championships

Illustration for article titled Caster Semenya Wont Be Allowed To Defend Her 800-Meter Title At The World Championships
Photo: Francois Nel (Getty)

South African runner Caster Semenya won’t be allowed to compete in her primary event, the 800 meters, two months from now at the 2019 World Championships, because a Swiss court has reversed the June ruling that temporarily suspended the IAAF’s discriminatory hormone policy.

Semenya, who has taken first in the 800m at the 2009, 2011, and 2017 World Championships—plus the 2012 and 2016 Olympics—has spent her career as a target of track and field officials who claim that her naturally high level of testosterone should disqualify her from competing against other women. In this year’s edition of her ongoing fight, the IAAF decided that women with testosterone levels in the male range couldn’t compete in events between 400 meters and a mile, which would force Semenya to take hormone-suppressing drugs and reduce her testosterone levels to below 5 nanomoles per liter for six months prior to participating in any major international competition.

Semenya fought the new rule, which was endorsed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in May, and won an initial victory on appeal in Swiss federal court the following month. But Switzerland’s Supreme Court upheld the initial CAS decision today, which for the time being effectively knocks Semenya out of her best event until six months after her hormones comply with the limit. However, it doesn’t seem like the two-time Olympic gold medalist is going to submit in the wake of this ruling.


“I am very disappointed to be kept from defending my hard-earned title,” Semenya said on Tuesday, “but this will not deter me from continuing my fight for the human rights of all the female athletes concerned.”

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