South African middle-distance runner and two-time Olympic champion #MokgadiCasterSemenyaOIB has lost her appeal against the Swiss court’s new restriction of naturally high testosterone levels in female athletes.
Last year, the World Athletics guidelines introduced a new restriction that bans females with high testosterone levels from competing. On Tuesday, it was announced that Switzerland’s supreme court judges dismissed Semenya’s appeal against a Court of Arbitration’s ruling last year that maintained rules that were created by the track’s governing body, which ban female runners with differences in their sex development (DSD) from being able to compete.
This means that Semenya cannot compete and defend her Olympic 800 meter title at the Tokyo Games next year, all because she naturally has higher testosterone levels, the 71-page ruling states. In addition, she will be banned from competing in any top meets in distances from 400 meters to the mile unless she agrees to lower her testosterone level through medication or surgery, which Semenya has already declined.
“I am very disappointed by this ruling, but refuse to let World Athletics drug me or stop me from being who I am,” said the 29-year-old. “Excluding female athletes or endangering our health solely because of our natural abilities puts World Athletics on the wrong side of history.” The Swiss Federal Tribunal claims that Semenya’s appeal “essentially alleges a violation of the prohibition of discrimination.”
Three judges on the sports court said in a 2-to-1 decision that discriminating against Semenya was “necessary, reasonable and proportionate” in order to maintain fairness in women’s track. Testosterone is a hormone that strengthens muscle tone and bone mass, and can also be injected or ingested as a steroid to make someone faster or stronger. In Semenya’s case, she naturally has higher levels of the hormone. There were five judges on a panel that made the decision on Tuesday, and they say it was limited to examining “whether the CAS decision violates fundamental and widely recognized principles of public order. That is not the case.” The judges decided that Semenya’s “guarantee of human dignity” was not compromised by their decision.
“Implicated female athletes are free to refuse treatment to lower testosterone levels. The decision also does not aim to question in any way the female sex of implicated female athletes,” the federal court said. In response, the track star said, “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. I know what is right and will do all I can to protect basic human rights, for young girls everywhere.”