Athletics

Caster determined to fight for human rights after latest setback

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Caster Semenya (Getty Images)
Caster Semenya (Getty Images)
  • The Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland on Tuesday ruled against Caster Semenya as she tries to return to the track.
  • A controversial ruling by World Athletics has seen Semenya out of action since last year.
  • Semenya won gold at the Rio Olympics in 2016 in the 800m event.

Caster Semenya's attempts to return to the track has suffered another blow with the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland refusing to set aside a 2019 ruling against the Olympic gold medalist by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

That ruling by CAS upheld a number of controversial rulings by World Athletics which stopped Semenya from competing in her favoured discipline, the 800m event as well as the 1500m due to elevated testosterone levels. 

In order to compete, Semenya would need to take medication or have a surgical procedure to lower those levels.

In the latest hearing, the Swiss Supreme Court ruled that World Athletics controversial rulings as a precondition to compete did not amount to a violation of Swiss public policy.

The court dismissed Semenya's legal team appeal despite finding that the regulations violate Semenya's physical integrity because the required hormonal drug intervention is not medically indicated, has negative health effects and is not based on the athlete’s free consent.  

As a result of the ruling, Semenya will not be able to defend her 800m title at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.

“I am very disappointed by this ruling, but refuse to let World Athletics drug me or stop me from being who I am," said Semenya.

"Excluding female athletes or endangering our health solely because of our natural abilities puts World Athletics on the wrong side of history.  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.” she added.

Semenya is currently considering all of her options and noted that the World Medical Association (WMA) has called on physicians around the world to take no part in implementing the World Athletics regulations and has demanded their immediate withdrawal. 

In April 2019, the WMA stated that the World Athletics rules “constitute a flagrant discrimination based on the genetic variation of female athletes and are contrary to international medical ethics and human rights standards.” 

Semenya also has the full support of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights who, in a June 2020 report titled “Intersection of race and gender discrimination in sport”, called on World Athletics to "review, revise and revoke" its eligibility rules. 

Greg Nott, a partner with Norton Rose Fulbright who has been Semenya's advisor for over a decade commented: “Nelson Mandela taught us that sport has the power to inspire and unite people. The World Athletics regulations upheld by the Swiss judgment do neither. This setback will not be the end of Caster’s story. She has an amazing team of advisors and lawyers behind her from countries around the world, including South Africa, Canada, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, India, the United States and the European Union.  The international team is considering the judgment and the options to challenge the findings in European and domestic courts.  We stand with Caster.  We stand united, and united we are strong.”

- Compiled by Sport24 staff

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