Caster Semenya: IAAF wants ‘swift reversal’ of Swiss court’s suspension of testosterone rules

The IAAF says it will seek a “swift reversal” of the decision that allows Olympic 800m champion Caster Semenya to temporarily compete without taking testosterone-reducing medication.

On Monday, Switzerland’s federal supreme court temporarily suspended a new IAAF ruling that would restrict testosterone levels in female runners.

However, the IAAF said the suspension only applied to Semenya, 28.

The court’s “superprovisional order” will also only apply until 25 June.

That is the date by which the IAAF must respond to the court on Semenya’s case. Last month, South African Semenya filed an appeal to the court after failing to have new IAAF rules restricting testosterone levels in female runners overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas).

Semenya said afterwards: “I hope following my appeal I will once again be able to run free.

“I am thankful to the Swiss judges for this decision.”

The IAAF – the governing body of world athletics – said the federal supreme court’s decision was made without its knowledge, and that it was only told of the order on Tuesday.

It therefore “did not have the chance” to explain why the ruling “should remain in force and applicable to all affected athletes while the appeal is pending”.

The IAAF defended its new rules, saying:

  • It is “convinced there are some contexts, sport being one of them, where biology has to trump identity”.
  • It “believes the right to participate in sport does not translate to a right to self-identify into a competition category or an event”.
  • “To define the category based on something other than biology would be category-defeating and would deter many girls around the world from choosing competitive and elite sport after puberty.”
  • “Regulations [on athletes with differences of sexual development] are a necessary, reasonable and proportionate means of protecting fair and meaningful competition in elite female athletics, and Cas agreed.”

It wants the supreme court’s suspension of the rules to be reversed to avoid “serious confusion” among athletes and event organisers and “to protect the integrity of the sport”.

The IAAF also said it had received a letter from Raswyn Lovett, co-chair of the International Working Group on Women in Sport, Diane Huffman, president of WomenSport International, and Professor Rosa Lopez de D’Amico, president of the International Association of Physical Education for Girls and Women last week which said the regulations “imply wrongdoing and come with a penalty” and “force an athlete to take medication that alters their natural state”.

It rejected the accusation in the letter that its regulations “enforce gender inequality”, saying in response that the rule was introduced “precisely because the IAAF is committed to protecting the rights and opportunities of female athletes”.

In reply, it wrote: “The challenge that the IAAF faces is how to accommodate individuals who identify as female (and are legally recognised as female) but who – because of a difference of sex development – have XY chromosomes that lead to testes that produce high levels of testosterone, and therefore have all the same physical advantages over women for the purposes of athletics as men have over women.”

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