South Africa's Caster Semenya may be forced to compete against men

South Africa's Caster Semenya

South Africa’s ruling party, African National Congress (ANC), has called new regulations issued by athletics’ governing body IAAF a “blatant racist attempt” against South Africa’s Olympic 800m champion Caster Semenya.

The new measures, which come into effect in November, state that female athletes with naturally high testosterone levels will have to race against men or change events unless they take medication.

“These laws target amongst others Caster Semenya who has been over the past decade constantly put under undue pressure” the ANC wrote in a statement.

The International Association of Athletics Federations new guidelines would apply to women who race in track events from 400m up to the mile.

The South African runner has previously been asked to undertake gender testing by athletics chiefs but no results have ever officially been made public.

The 27-year-old’s powerful physique and deep voice, followed by the revelations of her hyperandrogenism, left some rivals complaining that they faced an impossible and unfair challenge.

The IAAF’s previous attempts to regulate the issue fell foul of a Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling in 2015 following an appeal on behalf of Indian athlete Dutee Chand, who had been banned from competing because of her testosterone levels.

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“The revised rules are not about cheating – they are about levelling the playing field to ensure fair and meaningful competition,” IAAF president Lord Coe said.

“We want athletes to be incentivised to make the huge commitment and sacrifice required to excel in the sport.”

The ANC has implored South Africa’s government to intervene on Semenya’s behalf.

“These new regulations infringe on the Human Rights of athletes, targeting mainly those in East Europe, Asia and the African continent,” the party wrote. “The racial undertones of this cannot go unnoticed.”

Media in the UK and South Africa on Wednesday published sections of the report ahead of its official release, revealing that the new hyperandrogenism regulations would include a separate female classification to be known as an Athlete with Differences of Sexual Development or DSD.

“The result is these new regulations, which seek to facilitate the participation in the sport of athletes with DSDs on terms that preserve fair and meaningful competition in the female classification.”

The IAAF’s medical advisors have suggested the advantage held by DSD athletes is far less pronounced in short sprints or longer distance endurance races, leaving the door open for Semenya to move up to 5,000 or 10,000 metres if she desires.

Ms. Semenya has been embroiled in a global debate about gender and athletics since winning the 800 meter gold medal at the 2009 World Championships.

She had previously been asked to undertake gender testing by athletics chiefs but the results have never been made public.



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