Athletics SA to challenge new ‘skewed’ testosterone rules

Caster Semenya
Caster Semenya

Athletics South Africa has decided to challenge the International Association of Athletics Federation’s (IAAF) new regulations for female athletes issued on April 26.

ASA said in a statement released on Thursday, that after consulting extensively with the minister of sport, the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee as well as various other institutes and individuals, the association has taken the decision to challenge the regulations because it “found them to be skewed.”

“As a member federation, we will engage the IAAF as our mother body and if they do not change their minds on this new rule after this engagement, we will proceed to CAS (Court of Arbitration for Sport) for further assistance on the matter.”

The new regulations, known as the testosterone regulations, have drawn worldwide criticism with South Africa’s law professor, Steve Cornelius, resigning from the international athletics body’s disciplinary tribunal because he could not in “good conscience continue to associate myself with an organisation which insists on ostracising certain individuals, all of them female, for no reason other than being what they were born to be.”

The regulations were seen by many as a direct attack on South Africa’s golden athlete Caster Semenya, with sports minister Tokozile Xasa calling the new rules sexist and racist.

“We are disappointed because ... it is only after she has participated [in big events] that such sentiments come out,” Xasa said, in reference to Semenya’s two gold medals at the Commonwealth Games.

READ: Sports minister says hands off Caster Semenya 

The new regulations, which come into effect on November 1, would see athletes with testosterone levels that exceed 5 nanomoles (nmol) per litre banned if: they do not reduce their testosterone levels by taking hormonal contraceptives; run against male athletes in future events or chose different races other than the 400m, 800m and 1 500m.

The 800m and 1 500m are the two events Semenya has dominated the world in, despite evidence showing that no advantage is gained by athletes with higher testosterone who choose to run the 1 500m.

READ: IAAF rules are ‘arbitrary’ and ‘poor’

Semenya has not directly responded to this new rule but has posted on twitter messages of positivity, determination and resilience, the most striking of which can be seen below:

In their statement, ASA said that the “IAAF Hyperandrogenism Regulations were first put in place from 1 May 2011.

"The regulations stated that female athletes who naturally produce levels of testosterone, 10 nmol/L, were not eligible to compete in the female category and needed to take androgen-suppressive drugs to resume competition.”

These regulations were suspended after an Indian sprinter appealed to CAS that the regulations were unfairly discriminating against women who naturally produce higher levels of testosterone.

After making its stance known, ASA said that it re-affirms its support for all athletes who may be affected by this new ruling.

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