Caster Semenya has never had it easy during her career. This may be an odd statement to make about an athlete that has won two Olympic gold medals and three World championships in 800 metre running.
However, with all that success usually brings the respect of an athlete’s even biggest rivals.
For Caster that hasn’t been the case. Several of her competitors have labelled her as a cheat over the years. She was even subject of a sex verification test after her victory at the 2009 World Championships.
Questions of her sex came up due to Semenya’s more muscular frame compared to her fellow counterparts. It just turns out she extremely high testosterone levels. It’s nothing to do with cheating or performing enhancing. Simply it’s down to her natural genetics giving her an advantage with this high testosterone increasing her muscle mass, strength, and endurance.
Last time I checked that’s how a lot of the top tier athletes get their advantages. Semenya is just blessed with a body naturally built for running.
Like fellow Olympic superstar Michael Phelps. He is built for swimming due to his condition of Marfan Syndrome. A condition he can’t do anything about but does give him certain physical advantages. Unlike Semenya he never had to do anything about it and rightfully so.
No athlete should ever be punished for being blessed with natural ability and gifts.
Change Of Rules
Back in April 2018 the governing body for athletics World Athletics required athletes with specific orders of sexual development to take medication to lower their testosterone levels.
The rule was only applied to athletes competing in the 400m, 800m and 1500m running events. This led many to believe this new ruling was introduced to specifically target Caster. Denying the South African her right to use her natural body for success.
Semenya quickly began legal action against World Athletics to challenge the ruling.
On the 1st of May 2019, the Court of Arbitration for Sport rejected her challenge. So, the new ruling officially came into effect a week later.
Semenya appealed that decision to the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland. The Swiss Federal Court even instructed the World Athletics to suspend the use of their ruling on sexual development. They done this out of respect for Semenya until the court decided on if they’ll issue an interlocutory injunction or not.
However, they would later reverse that decision. This caused Semenya to miss the 2019 World Athletic Championships in October 2019 due to continuing her appeal.
It’s an issue that has divided the athletic community. With some believing women’s sports require certain natural traits and anything above that leaves the other women at a complete disadvantage.
On the other hand, you have people saying this is a matter of human rights. That you can’t tell someone like Caster Semenya who has lived her entire life as a woman that you suddenly don’t belong in a women’s sport due to your natural biological traits.
Caster has even said that this whole situation has broken her both physically and mentally. Sadly, the situation isn’t going to get any easier for her.
The Double Olympic Champion has recently lost her appeal to the Swiss Federal Tribunal. So, the ruling that female athletes with a high natural level of testosterone must take medication to reduce it will stand to make competitions fair.
After the ruling Caster did release a very passionate and firm statement on the matter. She said “I am very disappointed by this ruling, but refuse to let World Athletics drug me or stop me from being who I am.”
Semenya added “Excluding female athletes or endangering our health solely because of our natural abilities puts World Athletics on the wrong side of history.”
She finished up by saying “I will continue to fight for the human rights of female athletes, both on the track and off the track, until we can all run free the way we were born.
“I know what is right and will do all I can to protect basic human rights, for young girls everywhere.”
It is a decision that World Athletics welcomed with open arms. Feeling that the decision has protected fair competition and has nothing to do with challenging gender identities.
In a statement released after the decision World Athletics said “We therefore welcome today’s decision by the Swiss Federal Tribunal (SFT) to uphold our DSD Regulations as a legitimate and proportionate means of protecting the right of all female athletes to participate in our sport on fair and meaningful terms.”
They would also add “We are committed to the full participation of women in the sport of athletics, be that as elite female athletes in fair and meaningful competition, as young girls developing life and sport skills, or as administrators or officials. While there is a lot of work to be done, we are at the forefront of this work, not just for our own sport but for all sport.”
It seems to be the end of this fight for Semenya. Following the ruling the Swiss Federal Tribunal have said that this ruling can’t be challenged. With their main concerns being fairness in competition.
They have also claimed that the European Court of Human Rights puts importance on the value of fairness in competition.
The Swiss Federal Tribunal has concluded a statement by saying “Throughout this long battle, World Athletics has always maintained that its regulations are lawful and legitimate, and that they represent a fair, necessary and proportionate means of ensuring the rights of all female athletes to participate on fair and equal terms.
“It has rejected the suggestion that they infringe any athlete’s human rights, including the right to dignity and the right to bodily integrity. We are very pleased that the highest court in Switzerland has now joined with the highest court in sport in endorsing World Athletics’ arguments.”
What Now For Caster?
This is a big blow for Caster Semenya. She has had overwhelming supports throughout this whole process.
Overall, it’s just disappointing to see. She has missed out on competition during her peak years fighting a ruling that arguably shouldn’t of came into place.
You can’t vilify someone for their natural biological gifts. If these athletes didn’t use their physical gifts to succeed, anyone could do what they do.
Fans will just want to see her return if that’s what she chooses to do.
She has expressed her interest on focusing on 200 metres sprint event for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Which is now scheduled for 2021 due to Covid-19.
This shorter event falls outside the restrictions now put into place. If that’s what Caster Semenya wants to do then it could be an avenue to go down and add to her collection of two Olympic gold medals.