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Caster Semenya vows to ‘fight for the rights of female athletes’ after losing testosterone rules appeal

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Caster Semenya has yet again hit another stumbling block in her attempts to overturn a 2019 ruling by the Court of Arbitration (CAS) that requires female athletes with high testosterone levels to take suppressants if they want to internationally compete in distances between 400m and a mile.

On Tuesday, the South African double Olympic 800m champion lost her appeal against CAS after the Swiss Federal Tribunal (SFT) upheld its 2019 ruling that said the new policy for athletes with differences in Disorders of Sex Development (DSD) was “necessary, reasonable and proportionate” to allow for a balanced competition in female sport, The Guardian reports.

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“Based on these findings, the CAS decision cannot be challenged,” the SFT said. “Fairness in sport is a legitimate concern and forms a central principle of sporting competition. It is one of the pillars on which competition is based.”

The recent ruling means Semenya will be required to take medication to reduce her testosterone levels if she wants to defend her title at the Tokyo Olympics next year. Responding to the decision in a statement, the 29-year-old expressed her disappointment but vowed to “continue to fight for the human rights of female athletes.”

“I am very disappointed by this ruling, but refuse to let World Athletics drug me or stop me from being who I am,” Semenya said. “Excluding female athletes or endangering our health solely because of our natural abilities puts World Athletics on the wrong side of history. I will continue to fight for the human rights of female athletes, both on the track and off the track, until we can all run free the way we were born.”

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Semenya’s lawyer, Greg Nott, was also adamant they would challenge the ruling.

“This setback will not be the end of Caster’s story,” Nott said, according to Reuters. “The international team (of lawyers) is considering judgment and the options to challenge the findings in European and domestic courts.”

But their chances of successfully winning an appeal at the European court of human rights appear to be slim, the SFT added in their ruling, according to The Guardian.

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“The European Court of Human Rights also attaches particular importance to the aspect of fair competition,” the tribunal said. “In addition to this significant public interest, the CAS rightly considered the other relevant interests, namely the private interests of the female athletes running in the ‘women’ category.”

World Athletics also released a statement welcoming the decision:

Throughout this long battle, World Athletics has always maintained that its regulations are lawful and legitimate, and that they represent a fair, necessary and proportionate means of ensuring the rights of all female athletes to participate on fair and equal terms. It has rejected the suggestion that they infringe any athlete’s human rights, including the right to dignity and the right to bodily integrity. We are very pleased that the highest court in Switzerland has now joined with the highest court in sport in endorsing World Athletics’ arguments. World Athletics remains committed to applying the regulations carefully and sensitively to ensure that 46XY DSD athletes who wish to compete in the female category are able to do so safely and fairly.

The Genesis

In May 2019, Semenya was was told by the IAAF – the governing body of world athletics – she could no longer be allowed to compete in her present state due to her rare genetic traits. The Court of Arbitration in Sport (CAS) agreed with the IAAF that Semenya’s natural testosterone is too high for her to compete with women.

Semenya, who was born with intersex traits, had challenged the IAAF over its decision to restrict testosterone levels in female runners for distances between 400m and a mile.

But a ruling in May 2019 said that the middle-distance runner would have to take testosterone suppressants if she wants to compete in such shorter events. Following the ruling by CAS, the South African middle-distance runner took her appeal to the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland, citing the need to defend “fundamental human rights,” reports the BBC.

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