Following the ruling of the Court Arbitration of Sport last month which ruled in favor of the International Association of Athletics Federation’s “Semenya Rule” in the case against Caster Semenya. The ruling that barred her from competing in sports without medical intervention to artificially lower her naturally produced testosterone level. Semenya filed an appeal against the ruling to the Switzerland Supreme Court officially known as the Swiss Federal Tribunal which has ruled to temporarily suspended the IAAF rule which sought to regulate female athletes with “differences of sexual development” or DSD.
The original regulations stated that female athletes must maintain a blood testosterone levels below 5/nmol in order to be eligible to compete in the 400m, 800m and 1500m events in international competition. Athletes who test blood testosterone higher than 5/nmol would be required to receive interventions in the form of medication to lower their blood testosterone if they want to compete.
Scientists, athletes, and activists criticized the ruling that appeared to be unfairly targeted at Caster Semenya who specializes in the 800m and the highest profile athlete affected by the rule. Semenya won the gold medal in the 800m at the 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympic Games. The case was brought up to the Court Arbitration of Sport between the IAAF and Athletics South Africa whom represented Semenya with the CAS ultimately ruling in favor of the IAAF. The rule was criticized to be unfair toward female athletes who live with hyperandrogenism. Hyperandrogenism is a condition most commonly seen in female athletes that is characterized by the body producing higher than normal amounts of “androgens” or hormones that are responsible for the development of biological male traits.
Following the CAS ruling, two athletes from Kenya were subsequently barred from the Kenyan National Team and athletes like Caster Semenya were barred from competing. Semenya and Athletics South Africa appealed the CAS ruling, bringing it to the Swiss Federal Tribunal which have ruled to temporarily suspend the ruling and given the IAAF until June 25th to respond with sufficient arguments to restore the rule. If the IAAF does not respond or fails to overturn the ruling with sufficient arguments, the regulations will remain suspended to hear Semenya’s full appeal by a panel of Swiss Federal Judges. This process could take up to a year or more, which will permit Semenya and other athletes to continue competing. Including the Diamond League Meet in September and the World Championships in October.
“I am thankful to the Swiss judges for this decision,” Semenya said. “I hope that following my appeal I will once again be able to run free.”
Semenya’s lawyer, Dorothee Schramm who is leading Semenya’s Appeal responded that the supreme court has “has granted welcome temporary protection to Caster Semenya.”
“This is an important case that will have fundamental implications for the human rights of female athletes,” Schramm said.
By Dirk Smith