Caster Semenya, a South African Olympic gold medalist, is pulling out of September’s 800-meter competition at the world track and field championships in Qatar after a Switzerland court ruled on July 30 that she must adhere to rules requiring her to take testosterone-reducing medication.
The court ruling marked yet another setback in what has been a decades-long pattern of discrimination against the international track star. Transphobic and racist conservatives have long perpetuated false stereotypes about her physical appearance to push invasive tactics like “sex testing” — all to curtail her ability to compete.
The issue has bounced around in courts for some time and Semenya is still aiming to succeed via an appeal. In a May ruling, the two-time Olympic gold medalist lost her initial appeal in the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) after the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) announced new rules last year that required women athletes with high levels of testosterone to reduce their levels. The court argued that “such discrimination is necessary” to maintain “the integrity of female athletics.” Semenya has maintained that her testosterone levels are naturally occurring.
Last month, Switzerland’s Federal Supreme Court suspended the rule, which paved the way for Semenya to compete while under appeal without having to alter her testosterone levels. The July 30 ruling reverses the Supreme Court’s decision.
“I am very disappointed to be kept from defending my hard-earned title, but this will not deter me from continuing my fight for the human rights of all of the female athletes concerned,” Semenya, 28, said in a written statement.
Her attorney vowed to continue fighting. “The judge’s procedural decision has no impact on the appeal itself,” Schramm said. “We will continue to pursue Caster’s appeal and fight for her fundamental human rights. A race is always decided at the finish line.”
Semenya is known for her talent in the 800-meter competition — she won it during the 2012 and 2016 Olympics — and many suspect the IAFF specifically created testosterone requirements for that competition because of her.
“I know that the IAAF’s regulations have always targeted me specifically,” she said in May. “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.”