South Africa’s Caster Semenya Out of World Championships After Swiss Court Reverses Reprieve

CAPE TOWN – In a huge blow to South Africa’s double Olympic champion Caster Semenya,  the Swiss Federal Tribunal reversed a ruling that temporarily lifted the IAAF’s testosterone regulations imposed on her. This means the South African athlete will not be able to defend her 800-metres title at the World Championships in September, a spokesperson said.

South African athlete Caster Semenya speaks with journalists after she raced during a 2,000 metres for the first time after her ban due to elevated testosterone levels, at a small meeting in Montreuil, near Paris, France, June 11, 2019. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer/File Photo

Semenya is appealing the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s (CAS) ruling that supported regulations introduced by the sport’s governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).

These say that XY chromosome athletes with differences in sexual development (DSDs) can race in distances from 400m to a mile only if they take medication to reach a reduced testosterone level.

“I am very disappointed to be kept from defending my hard-earned title, but this will not deter me from continuing my fight for the human rights of all of the female athletes concerned,” Semenya said in a statement from her representative.

CAS is based in Lausanne and comes under the jurisdiction of Switzerland’s highest court.

The IAAF said they would only comment once they have read the full reasoning behind the judgement.

“We understand the Swiss Federal Tribunal will be publishing its full decision on this order tomorrow (Wednesday) and the IAAF will comment once the tribunal makes its reasoning public,” a spokeswoman told Reuters.

The South African had been given a reprieve last month by the Swiss court, which temporarily lifted the IAAF’s regulations from her until the final outcome of her appeal.

“The Supreme Court emphasised the strict requirements and high thresholds for the interim suspension of CAS awards and found that these were not fulfilled,” the statement said.

Dorothee Schramm, the lawyer leading Semenya’s appeal, says they are still hopeful of a permanent lifting of the regulations.

“The judge’s procedural decision has no impact on the appeal itself. We will continue to pursue Caster’s appeal and fight for her fundamental human rights. A race is always decided at the finish line,” Schramm said.

Semenya ran the quickest ever 800-metres on United States soil at the Prefontaine Classic Diamond League meeting on June 30 in a time of 1:55.70.

She told reporters afterwards that she would not compete at the World Championships in Doha if barred from running her preferred distance, having earlier hinted she could enter longer races in the future that are not covered by the regulations.

After hearing the news, Semenya tweeted “Oooh yeah 🤷‍♂️”. Her South African fans rallied to support her, telling her “you make us proud to be African”, “Mzansi loves you” and “we support you all the way”.

Semenya also posted a couple of images on Twitter saying: “People can be mean. Don’t take it personally. It says nothing about you, but a lot about them” and “Determined spirit is unstoppable”.

(Reporting by Nick Said/Reuters and Jenni Baxter/SAPeople; Editing by Toby Davis and Jenni Baxter)