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IAAF Now Officially Allowed To Discriminate Against Caster Semenya

Photo: Michael Dodge (Getty)

South African track star Caster Semenya has lost her appeal against the sport’s governing body, IAAF, and will have to take medicine to lower her natural levels of testosterone if she wants to continue to compete in her best event, the Court of Arbitration for Sport announced today.

The verdict—which comes after years of fundamentally racist debate about Semenya’s body and ongoing, bad-faith concern trolling about transgender athletes in sports, even though Semenya is not transgender—was reached even though CAS said that the IAAF’s policy was “discriminatory.” The ruling was handed down by three arbitrators who spent months deliberating over the case. It said:

The Panel found that the DSD [differences of sex development] Regulations are discriminatory but the majority of the Panel found that, on the basis of the evidence submitted by the parties, such discrimination is a necessary, reasonable and proportionate means of achieving the IAAF’s aim of preserving the integrity of female athletics in the Restricted Events.

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Semenya is a woman who has higher levels of testosterone than most women, like Michael Phelps has longer arms than most men. It is a natural variation in her body, one that the IAAF is now using to discriminate against her, on the grounds of so-called “integrity.”

Semenya was first targeted in 2009 when she was just 18, and was forced to undergo a “gender verification” test, that was she called “unwarranted and invasive” and was probably as humiliating as it sounds. She was cleared to compete, but the IAAF has spent the intervening years trying to stop her. In 2011 the IAAF passed a rule regarding the eligibility of women based on their levels of testosterone, which was overturned on an appeal from runner Dutee Chand in 2015. A year ago, the IAAF came back with another similar rule that required female athletes with naturally high levels of testosterone to reduce their levels in order to be eligible to compete at distances from 400-meters to a mile. Semenya challenged this ruling and lost.

“I know that the IAAF’s regulations have always targeted me specifically,” she said in a statement put out by her lawyer. “For a decade the IAAF has tried to slow me down, but this has actually made me stronger. The decision of the CAS will not hold me back. I will once again rise above and continue to inspire young women and athletes in South Africa and around the world.” On Twitter, she said:

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On Friday at the South African Championships, Semenya, a two-time Olympic gold medalist in the 800-meter race, chose to compete in the 5000-meter race, which is exempt from the testosterone eligibility requirement, and won gold with a time of 16:05.97. The women’s world record at that distance is 14:11.15.

Semenya and her team have long maintained that her genetic difference shouldn’t be punished, saying, per BBC: “Women with differences in sexual development have genetic variations that are no different than other genetic variations in sport,” and that Semenya “does not wish to undergo medical intervention to change who she is and how she was born.”

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