Athletics SA welcomes global support for Caster

Caster Semenya (Supplied)
Caster Semenya (Supplied)

Cape Town - Athletics South Africa (ASA) has been humbled by the overwhelming support it has received locally and internationally from all levels of society, for the appeal against the IAAF's new regulation on female classification at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne, Switzerland where the hearing enters day four.

The regulations relate to the eligibility of females athletes with higher than normal testosterone levels to compete in international events. The IAAF said athletes will be denied participation unless their testosterone levels are reduced through medical intervention.

Various TV and radio stations, actors, actresses, media and sports personalities plus politicians including the President Cyril Ramaphosa and sports federations, have expressed undying support for ASA's joint challenge with Caster Semenya.

A press statement released by ASA on Thursday read: "ASA thanks everyone and the sports minister Tokozile Xasa, who has led a groundswell of support from various spectra of society, including top celebrities pushing the hashtag #HandsOffCaster.

"We also welcome the great support from national federations including South African Hockey Association, South African Football Association, Netball South Africa, Cricket South Africa, South African Rugby Union and others.

"The State President's message lifted the spirits of Semenya and the South African legal and medical teams challenging the reliability of the IAAF’s evidence in support of the regulations that it wishes to implement."

On Wednesday, President Ramaphosa expressed a word of support to the two-time 800m Olympic Games, IAAF world and Commonwealth Games champion, telling her that even though she may be alone on the track, a nation of 57 million runs with her.

In a message posted in his official twitter account, the Ramaphosa said: "Mokgadi, champion, beacon of hope and my daughter, you constantly remind us that nothing beats the enduring power of the human spirit."

Mandla Mandela, the chief of Mvezo Traditional Council and grandson of former State President Nelson Mandela, called for support at home and internationally by describing the new rules as discrimination which infringe on the dignity, human rights and the right to compete.

"We must fight discrimination in whatever shape or form it comes. We continue to support Athletics SA in its quest to protect the rights of our world champion and resist any attempts at discriminating against her."

Eighteen-time Grand Slam American tennis superstar Martina Navratilova (born in the Czech Republic) expressed concerns that forcing athletes to take medication may prove to have questionable long-term effects to an affected athlete.

Another tennis great, 75-year-old Billie Jean King, who boasts 12 Grand Slam singles title, added her voice of support for Semenya.

Professor Priya Soma-Pillay, the Honorary Secretary of the South African Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said: "This proposed treatment is ethically questionable as it not only restricts one's reproductive choices but may also be harmful, with adverse consequences to quality of life.

"Any non-medically indicated intervention must be carefully considered and the scientific evidence for its extent and safety must be totally sound and beyond question."

Parliament's Portfolio Committee for Sport and Recreation urged South Africans to support the appeal.

Chairperson Beauty Dlulane said the IAAF's insistence on changing the regulations will lead to many people viewing it as a discriminatory world sporting organisation.

Political parties led by the ANC and EFF have also expressed their annoyance at the new rules.

Minister of Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa said as a nation it is our duty to stand by Semenya as she has stood by us and represented South Africa with pride.

"ASA looks forward to a successful conclusion to this appeal for the benefit of all affected athletes," the statement concluded.

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