Semenya’s ‘manliness’ at the centre of IAAF/CAS storm

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Cape Town – International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) president Sebastian Coe has confirmed his organisation’s intention to challenge the ruling which suspended the monitoring of female athletes with higher than usual levels of testosterone.

Caster Semenya (Gallo Images)
Caster Semenya (Gallo Images)

According to the Insidethegames website, at the centre of the ruling is South Africa‘s Caster Semenya who is heading for a controversial victory in the women’s 800m final at the Rio Olympic Games.

Semenya has an intersex condition, meaning her body doesn’t conform to typical notions of male or female. She produces testosterone at a level much higher than what’s found in most women, prompting questions about whether she has an unfair biological advantage. 

Following her IAAF World Championship victory in Berlin in 2009, it was revealed that the then 18-year-old Semenya had undergone gender testing and she was withdrawn from international competition until July 2010.

For the first time in more than half a century, female Olympians will not be subject to any form of sex testing in Brazil, which means intersex track athletes will be allowed to compete with their natural testosterone levels.

That’s because last year, the rules introduced by the IAAF in 2011 – which required female athletes with high levels of male hormones to obtain medical clearance before competing – were suspended for two years by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

That put the burden of proof back onto the world governing body, which has until July 17 next year to appeal to CAS.

“We were surprised by the CAS decision, and I think the IOC was too,” said Coe following a meeting of the IAAF Council in Rio on Wednesday.

“We are looking again at this issue and will be talking to CAS at some time over the next year.

“But we need to remember that these are human beings.

“This is a sensitive subject, they are athletes, they are daughters, they are sisters and we need to be very clear about this.

“We will treat this sensitively.

“We need to go back to CAS and we have the right people looking at this.”

Semenya has three of the four best times run so far this year and tops the rankings with the 1:55.33 in Monaco on July 15.

The current world record for the women’s 800m is 1:53.28, set in 1983 by Czechoslovakia’s Jarmila Kratochvilova in Munich.

At 33 years old, it is the oldest track and field record still in the record books.

Semenya will be the favourite to win the Olympic gold medal on August 20 (02:15 SA time).

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