South African Olympic champion, Caster Semenya, who found herself in the eye of a controversial storm when her naturally elevated levels of testosterone were challenged, lost her right to participate in all women’s events from now on. The two-time 800 m medalist was disappointed with the ruling by the highest court in international sports which said that female track athletes like Semenya, who have naturally elevated levels of the hormone, need to decrease them if they want to take part in women’s events.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport addressed head on the question that it has been struggling to answer for decades: What is the best way to decide who can compete in women’s events? The court agreed that placing restrictions on permitted levels of natural testosterone was discriminatory but it had no choice since it was a “necessary, reasonable and proportionate means” of preserving the integrity of female competition.
The issue was brought to the highest court by the International Association of Athletics Federation which said it that was grateful for the ruling. The association has always argued that athletes such as Semenya had an unfair advantage over other women due to their extra muscle mass and power.
The South African athlete issued a statement saying: “I know that the I.A.A.F.’s regulations have always targeted me specifically. For a decade the I.A.A.F. has tried to slow me down, but this has actually made me stronger. The decision of the C.A.S. will not hold me back. I will once again rise above and continue to inspire young women and athletes in South Africa and around the world.”
The 28 year old will most probably challenge the higher court’s ruling.
Much criticism has been leveled at the ruling, with opponents arguing that Semenya is being penalized for biological traits that she was born with. They say that she has not taken performance-enhancing drugs and forcing her to take testosterone suppressants would be humiliating and medically unnecessary.
A BBC piece on the story asked the question: “Shouldn’t Semenya’s physical abilities be celebrated the same way Usain Bolt’s height and Michael Phelps’s wingspan are?”