South Africans rally around Semenya for IAAF challenge

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

South Africans have expressed support for golden girl Caster Semenya, who announced that she will challenge the eligibility regulations of the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF).

In an array of tweets, South Africans expressed their support for the two-time gold medallist in the women’s 800-metre event, saying she is the pride of the nation and that she should compete in “her natural form”, while others felt that Semenya “has been bullied enough”.

Global law firm Norton Rose Fulbright on Monday announced that it is advising Semenya in her legal case before the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne challenging the “Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification” of the IAAF.

The regulations compel women who compete in athletics at the international level to lower their natural testosterone levels through so-called medical interventions.

On Monday, the law firm said Semenya would file the legal challenge to ensure, safeguard and protect the rights of all women on the basis that the regulations are irrational, unjustifiable, and in violation of the IAAF Constitution (based in Monaco), the Olympic Charter, the laws of Monaco, the laws of jurisdictions in which international competitions are held, and of universally recognised human rights.  

The regulations, issued in April 2018, seek to establish a divide within the female category on the basis of naturally occurring testosterone levels.

The IAAF claims that higher natural testosterone gives these women an unfair advantage over their peers. They also claim that screening for high testosterone levels is needed to ensure a level playing field in women’s athletics, reasoning that testosterone unfairly improves performance in certain select events, which coincide with the events in which Semenya runs. 

Semenya contends that the regulations are objectionable on numerous grounds, including that they compel women with no prior health complaints to undergo medical interventions to lower their testosterone levels.

The IAAF, which is the international governing body for athletics, has announced that the regulations will come into effect on November 1 and women must show lowered testosterone levels for a minimum of six months before they can be considered eligible to compete. 

“Ms Semenya will ask the IAAF to suspend the implementation of the regulations until her legal challenge is finally disposed of,” said the firm.

The Norton Rose Fulbright team advising Caster Semenya is led by director Gregory Nott, who said the case is a landmark one concerning international human rights and discrimination against women athletes.

“[This has] major consequences for gender rights, which are jealously protected by the South African Bill of Rights,” said Nott. -