‘Discrimination’

Olympian Caster Semenya ‘unquestionably a woman’ say her lawyers, ahead of landmark case

Caster Semenya of Team Africa celebrates victory following the Womens 800 Metres during day two of the IAAF Continental Cup at Mestsky Stadium on September 9, 2018 in Ostrava, Czech Republic. (Photo by Lukas Schulze/Getty Images for IAAF)

Olympic Gold medal winning runner Caster Semenya is slated to appear before the court of arbitration of sport next week to oppose efforts to force her to reduce her testosterone levels for competitions. Lawyers for the star runner, who was reportedly born with male testes, say that forcing her to reduce her natural hormone levels would be both unhealthy and discriminatory.

The 800m Olympic champion is “unquestionably a woman,” they say, who will be fighting for her right to compete internationally without “unnecessary medical intervention.”

“Her case is about the rights of women such as Ms Semenya who are born as women, reared and socialized as women, who have been legally recognized as women for their entire lives, who have always competed as women, and who should be permitted to compete in the female category without discrimination,” Semenya’s lawyers said in a statement.

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) told the Guardian it was not classifying any athletes with differences in sexual development (DSDs) as male, as had been reported, “accepted their legal sex without question” and would allow all of them to continue to compete in the female category.

However, it wants the court of arbitration for sport to rule that DSD athletes such as Semenya must have their testosterone reduced to female levels before they compete internationally.

The IAFF has long been at odds with Semenya and others, claiming that natural genetic factors such as elevated testosterone levels give these women an unfair competitive advantage. The IAFF attempted to ban DSD athletes from competition altogether in 2015, but the court of arbitration for sport blocked the measure citing lack of scientific evidence that increased hormone levels impacted competition.

The IAFF subsequently funded a study that purportedly showed DSD athletes gain a competitive advantage of 1.78 to 4.53 percent in events such as the 400 and 800 meters and attempted to impose new rules forcing DSD athletes in races of 400 meters to one mile to reduce their testosterone levels before competitions. Both the scientific authenticity of the study — and the IAFF’s motives for their ban on DSD athletes — have been called into question by experts. Noting that the IAFF hadn’t even sought to ban DSD athletes in sports such as the hammer throw and pole vault — the two sports that showed the highest performance advantage with elevated testosterone according to the IAFF — Yale bioethicist Katrina Karkazis said that the organization appears to be specifically targeting Semenya.

News of Semenya’s decision to appear before the court of arbitration for sport comes just 24 hours after lawyers for the IAFF claimed that DSD and transgender athletes would “[dominate] the podiums and prize money in sport” should she win her legal challenge.

Read the full story at The Guardian.

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