Athletics

Caster Semenya latest: Government 'considering its options', calls on SA to unite in support

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Caster Semenya
Caster Semenya
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  • The Department of Sports and Recreation has continued to show its support for Caster Semenya.
  • Semenya is in a ongoing court battle with the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
  • Semenya won gold at the Rio Olympics in 2016 in the 800m event.

The Department of Sports and Recreation will continue to fight for reigning Olympic champion Caster Semenya following the Swiss Federal Court's decision to accept the Court of Arbitration for Sport's (CAS) ruling that, according to the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF), hormone-suppressing drugs be prescribed to any woman with disorder of sex development (DSD) competing in running distances from 400m to 1 500m.

Semenya has been in a court battle with CAS since the ruling last year. 

On Tuesday, the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland refused to set aside the CAS ruling and stated that the CAS "had the right to uphold the conditions of participation issued for female athletes with the genetic variant '46 XY DSD'.

Semenya has expressed her disappointment at the ruling, and on Wednesday the Department of Sports and Recreation said in a press statement that the ruling was "very unfortunate and offensive to the fundamental human rights of female athletes classified hyperandrogenic".

The government has always held a firm view that these regulations are a "gross violation of fundamental human rights of DSD female athletes and therefore rallied behind the appeal by both Caster Semenya and Athletics South Africa (ASA)" in their legal tussle with World Athletics, formerly known as the IAAF.

World Athletics has banned Semenya and other DSD athletes from races between 400m and a mile unless they take testosterone-reducing drugs.

Sports Minister Nathi Mthethwa called on all South Africans to rally behind Semenya and the fight for injustice against women in sport.

"As the government of democratic South Africa, a country renowned for its tradition of promoting and protecting basic human rights, together with Athletics SA, we will study the judgement and consider various options and avenues at our disposal in our collective campaign to fight this injustice," said Mthethwa.

"We call upon all South Africans, Africans and the entire world to rally behind Caster in our quest to defeat injustice against Women in Sport and in particular African Women."

In 2008, Semenya took the athletics world by storm when she became the world 800m champion in Berlin at the age of 19.

The middle-distance runner is a two-time Olympic gold medallist - winning the 800m in 2012 and 2016 - and holds the South African records at 300m, 400m, 600m, 800m, 1 000m and 1 500m.

Semenya, born with the "46 XY" chromosome rather than the XX chromosome most females have, has been forced out for months due to the World Athletics' ruling.

In March 2019, all South African political parties made statements in parliament and were "unanimous and unambiguous in the condemnation" against the ruling and committed their unequivocal support for Semenya.

"Voices across the globe joined us as Government and the country, to express concern about the regulations," read the government's statement.

"The support was further enhanced by the Resolution of the United Nations Human Rights Council that classified them as a "contravention of international human rights norms and standards including the right to equality and non-discrimination, the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, the right to physical and bodily integrity and the right to freedom from torture, and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment and harmful practices".

"The Women's Sport Foundation also characterised the Regulations as 'exacerbating discrimination against women in sport who are perceived as not prescribing to normative ideas about femininity'.

"On the medical front, the World Medical Association (WMA) also condemned these Regulations and called upon all doctors and medical scientists across the globe to take no part in their implementation.

"In its statement of the 29th April 2019, the Association demanded immediate withdrawal of the Regulations as they constitute a flagrant discrimination based on genetic variation of female athletes and are contrary to international medical ethics. It also expressed fears that athletes like Caster would be coerced to take unjustified medication not based on medical need, and further indicated that it is unethical for physicians to prescribe treatment for endogenous testosterone if the condition is not recognised as pathological.

"Essentially this means these Regulations are not only a violation of human and women rights but their administration is considered unethical by the experts in the field of medical science."

- Compiled by Lynn Butler

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