Athletics

ANC 'appalled' by Caster Semenya testosterone ruling

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Caster Semenya (Getty)
Caster Semenya (Getty)

Cape Town - The African National Congress (ANC) has hit out at the ruling handed down by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) forcing female athletes to regulate their testosterone levels.

In a statement on Wednesday the ANC said it was "appalled" at the CAS decision on the matter brought before it by star South African athlete Caster Semenya and Athletics South Africa (ASA)

READ: Caster Semenya tweets after losing testosterone ruling

Semenya, a double 800m Olympic champion, was fighting measures imposed by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) that compel "hyperandrogenic" athletes - or those with "differences of sexual development" (DSD) - to lower their testosterone levels if they wish to compete as women.

A three-judge CAS panel ruled 2-1 that even though the rules are "discriminatory... such discrimination is a necessary, reasonable and proportionate means of achieving the IAAF’s aim of preserving the integrity of female athletics in the Restricted Events."

While the IAAF believes female runners with high testosterone levels have an unfair advantage in events from 400m to the mile (1 600m), CAS judges want the IAAF to apply the rules only up to the 800m as the evidence is not clear that women with hyperandrogenism have a competitive advantage in the 1 500m.

The CAS panel suggested that the IAAF consider deferring the application of the DSD Regulations to these events (1 500m and the mile) until more evidence is available.

That could give Semenya a route to compete at September's IAAF World Championships in Doha without altering her testosterone levels. Semenya was the bronze medalist in the 1 500m at the 2017 worlds in London.

READ: Caster could have a shot at a medal, just not in the 800m

The ANC statement continued:

It is rather disheartening to learn that the CAS has ruled against Caster Semenya in her fight to be treated equally and without prejudice. It is important to note that the decision was not unanimous.

The ANC joins millions of South Africans in reiterating its support for the equal treatment for Caster Semenya by the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF). The ANC has always appreciated the role of sport as a unifier that traverses the racial, ethnic, religious, gender and class divide. Yet today we witness the IAAF, a body meant to be the custodian of the values for athletics, acting in a prejudicial manner that divides rather than unites athletes.

Our principled support for Caster Semenya is informed by our own heroic struggles for liberation. Ours is a democracy built on a human rights foundation, where the right to have one’s human dignity respected and protected, is entrenched in our supreme law. Our struggles for a just world, underpinned by respect and protection of human rights will never be compromised. The legacy bestowed on us by the giants of our liberation struggle such as Nelson Mandela, require of us to lead from the frontlines in demonstrating to the world that its support in declaring apartheid a crime against humanity was never in vain.  We will never stand on the sidelines when the human rights legacy of our young democracy is under threat. 

The sporting arena has always been a contested terrain. We have had the ignominy of the Olympics being hosted by the racist Nazi regime in 1936. We have also had the sporting community shun and isolate the apartheid regime, and not allow apartheid athletes to compete on the international stage. As the ANC, we had hoped that the IAAF would remember its past, both good and bad, and do the right thing.  Unfortunately, the IAAF chose expediency at the expense of natural talents of athletes like Caster Semenya.

The ANC went on to commend Semenya for the manner in which she conducted herself throughout the ordeal and called on the international sporting community to raise their voices at this injustice.

The ANC commends Caster Semenya for the manner she has conducted herself throughout this ordeal. It would have been very easy for Caster to exhibit anger, on the contrary she has been the epitome of grace and charm. 

We call on the international sporting community to raise their voices at this injustice. The UN Human Rights Council resolution adopted in March 2019 on Caster Semenya should serve as a lodestar in guiding not only the sporting fraternity, but the rest of the world in establishing fair rules that protect and uphold the human rights and dignity of others.

Semenya has 30 days to appeal, in a challenge that would be heard by the Swiss Federal Tribunal.

READ: SASCOC 'downright disappointed' in Caster ruling

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