Caster Semenya, a South African two-time Olympic gold medal champion has filed a lawsuit in the European Court of Human Rights to challenge the World Athletics rule that aims to limit testosterone in female athletes. This is the third lawsuit the athlete has filed against the international governing body on this matter.
Semenya identifies as female, however she is hyperandrogenic — a medical condition characterised by high levels of androgens in women. This means that the athlete naturally has higher levels of testosterone.
In 2018, World Athletics introduced a new rule that regulates the levels of testosterone in female athletes and thus banned Semenya and other female athletes with differences in sexual development from competing in races between 400m and a mile (1.6km). They stated that they can only take part in such races if they take testosterone suppressing agents or have surgery to the same effect.
Following her refusal to decrease her natural testosterone, Semenya has since been prohibited from competing in 800m races.
This will not be the first time Semenya has filed an appeal on the matter; in 2019, she lost an appeal made to the court of Arbitration for Sport. In September 2020, she again lost an appeal to the Switzerland’s Federal Supreme Court.
The latest appeal was to the European Court of Human Rights and was announced to the public on Thursday in a press release by Semenya’s lawyers, Norton Rose Fulbright.
Semenya said in a statement: “I hope the European court will put an end to the longstanding human rights violations by the World Athletics against women athletes. All we ask for is to run free, for once and for all, as the strong and fearless women we are and have always been.”
Her lawyer Gregory Nott, speaking from Johannesburg, told Al Jazeera: “This is Caster’s fight but she believes it’s a fight for all women who faced derogatory or prejudicial attacks upon themselves. She sees it as a fight for all women in a similar situation as herself.”
The World Athletics has insisted that they are not targeting Semenya, but rather making sure that all athletes had a fair footing in the sport.
"Throughout this long battle, World Athletics has always maintained that its regulations are lawful and legitimate, and that they represent a reasonable, necessary, and proportionate means of ensuring the rights of all female athletes to participate on fair and equal terms," World Athletics said to CNN.
This new lawsuit comes ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, due to take place later in 2021. Semenya has yet to qualify for the Olympics and she hopes to take part in the 200m race, following a decision she made to switch events in order to still be able to compete on the world stage.