Semenya targeted by new testosterone rules

Caster Semenya

In an effort to address questions about fair play, track and field's world governing body will publish regulations on Thursday that could force some elite female athletes with naturally elevated testosterone levels to lower the hormone with medication, compete against men in certain Olympic events or effectively give up their global careers.

A prominent sports scientist predicts that Semenya could "run up to seven seconds slower" if she lowers her natural testosterone levels as required by IAAF. "It does not want to risk discouraging those aspirations by having unfair competition conditions that deny athletes a fair opportunity to succeed".

"We wish to place on record that Caster Semenya has never engaged in any performance enhancing activities and any enhanced testosterone levels are due exclusively to her genetic make up".

The IAFF, who co-funded the study with the World Anti-Doping Agency, had previously required Semenya to take medication to lower her testosterone, though the Court of Arbitration for Sport eventually overruled that requirement.

It has also seen backlash spread across social media, with users calling the regulation "sexist".

The rules stipulate that athletes with DSD need to be, "recognised at law either as female or as intersex", and "must reduce her blood testosterone level to below five (5) nmol/L for a continuous period of at least six months", and then, "maintain her blood testosterone level.for as long as she wishes to remain eligible". Our evidence and data show that testosterone, either naturally produced or artificially inserted into the body, provides significant performance advantages in female athletes.

The IAAF's medical advisors have suggested the advantage held by DSD athletes is far less pronounced in short sprints or longer distance endurance races, leaving the door open for Semenya to move up to 5,000 or 10,000 metres if she desires.

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The regulations are meant to ensure "fair and meaningful competition within the female classification", according to track's governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations, known as the IAAF.

In 2011, athletics' governing body attempted to prohibit female athletes with hyperandrogenism (excessive levels of androgens in the female body) from competing at worldwide events under IAAF guidance.

She replied to the new rules, which come into effect on November 1, 2018, by retweeting messages of support and the slogan: "How lovely it is to stay silent when someone expects you to be enraged".

The South African has responded by winning one title after another - most recently the 800m-1500m double at the Commonwealth Games. "We're angry and we want South Africans to rally behind us".

The debate over hyperandrogenism was in the headlines back in 2009 when Semenya won 800m gold in the World Championships.

The IAAF is expected to present these new regulations to the CAS.

"The treatment to reduce testosterone levels is a hormone supplement similar to the contraceptive pill taken by millions of women around the world", Bermon said.

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