The row between Caster Semenya and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) is set to continue, as Athletics South Africa on Monday announced that it will appeal a ruling that could effectively end Semenya’s career.
Semenya is a South African Olympian who, in the 800m distance, has been on an unbroken winning streak since 2015.
However, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled at the beginning of May that Semenya had to take hormone treatment to reduce her naturally high testosterone level — or stop racing against other women.
The IAAF’s regulations came into effect on May 8 meaning that, in order to continue running without reducing her testosterone levels, Semenya must choose to compete only with men or must increase the running distance in which she competes.
Athletics South Africa (ASA) has now announced that it will be going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to appeal the ruling. CAS is an international court that specialises in sports-related disputes.
ASA’s decision to appeal follows a directive from South Africa's Minister of Sports and Recreation Tokozile Xasa, telling the organisation to effectively go all out in their appeal against the ruling.
In a statement announcing her ministry’s continued support of Semenya, Xasa said: “As the South African government, we have always maintained that these regulations trample on the human rights and dignity of Caster Semenya and other women athletes.”
Last year, the IAAF announced new regulations that it said were a way of levelling the field between female athletes with naturally high levels of testosterone.
And while the IAAF says that the rules are not aimed at Semenya, other than the pole vault and the 400m hurdles, the regulations only apply to the 400m, 800m, and 1,500m races — all distances that Semenya runs.
However, South Africa’s “golden girl” as Xasa refers to Semenya, still has a chance to fight the latest setback as ASA gets ready to face the IAAF once again.
ASA’s appeal is going to be based on three factors: the organisation believes that arbitrators are compromised; it claims the CAS judgment doesn’t have compelling scientific evidence; and Xasa doesn’t believe that CAS addressed all the legal questions related to the case.
“The court simply gave the unfettered latitude to the IAAF to do as it pleases,” said Xasa. “For instance‚ it has not been answered as to how the IAAF will implement the regulations and how ethical issues will be addressed.”
ASA has applied for two of the three arbitrators to excuse themselves on the grounds that they were involved in the 2015 case concerning Dutee Chand, who also faced the possibility of taking hormones. The Indian sprinter won her case against the IAAF.
ASA is also going to argue that the regulations are a violation of Semenya’s human rights.
“The minister has also directed that the Department of Sport and Recreation SA (SRSA) should work with other organs of state to intensify the international lobby and to approach the United Nations General Assembly to sanction the IAAF for violating international human rights instruments,” the statement said.
ASA hasn’t said when the appeal will be lodged but it will have to be by the end of May as the all appeals must be made within 30 days of a ruling. The appeal will be lodged through the Swiss Federal Tribunal.
Semenya is not the only female athlete affected by the IAAF’s new regulations. Kenyan sprinters Maximilla Imali and Evangeline Makena also have high levels of testosterone.
Imali competes in the 100m and 200m races, while Makena is a 400m runner.
Unlike Semenya, however, they don’t have their country’s backing. Instead, Athletics Kenya (AK) has dropped them from the Kenyan team competing at the IAAF World Relays championship in Japan this week.
This is not the first time Imali has been stopped from competing. She was also withdrawn from the world championships in Beijing in 2015 after a blood test showed high testosterone levels.
“We could not risk travelling with the two athletes after the recent IAAF ruling on the restriction of testosterone levels on female runners took effect on May 8,” said Paul Mutwii, AK’s director of competitions.