Court Rules Female Athletes Must Suppress Testosterone Levels to Compete

Today, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled to uphold a controversial International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) rule that restricts testosterone levels in runners, specifically female runners, through the use of testosterone suppressing medication.

The court ruled that the rule is discriminatory, but “such discrimination is a necessary, reasonable, and proportionate means of achieving the IAAF’s aim of preserving the integrity of female athletics.”

However, the court also expressed “serious concerns” about the implementation of the rule, including the possibility of serious side effects for the athletes. “The side effects of hormonal treatment, experienced by individual athletes could, with further evidence, demonstrate the practical impossibility of compliance which could, in turn, lead to a different conclusion as to the proportionality of the DSD Regulations.”

This ruling was released after Caster Semanya, a two-time Olympic track and field champion from South Africa, appealed the IAAF’s controversial rules to the court.  These rules were designed to specifically target women like her who naturally produce higher levels of testosterone. These ruled were put into place in response to what is believed to be Semenya’s intersex condition that produces more testosterone and the IAAF believes that “heightened testosterone levels could improve performance by 5 percent or more.”

Semenya released a statement saying that “I know that the IAAF’s regulations have always targeted me specifically. For a decade the IAAF has tried to slow me down, but this has actually made me stronger. The decision of the CAS will not hold me back, I will once again rise above and continue to inspire young women and athletes in South Africa and around the world.”

Semenya’s legal team has called the ruling “discriminatory, irrational, and unjustifiable” in a statement and that the ruling only furthers “the offensive practice of intrusive surveillance and judging of women’s bodies which has historically haunted women’s sports. Ms. Semenya believes that women like her should be respected and treated as any other athlete. As is typically the case across sport, her unique gift should be celebrated, not regulated.”

The ruling only applies to the 400, 800, and 1,500 meter races; all races that Semenya primarily runs. “I am very upset that I have been pushed into the spotlight again. I don’t like talking about this new rule. I just want to run naturally, the way I was born. It is not fair that I am told I must change. It is not fair that people question who I am. I am Mokgadi Caster Semenya. I am a woman and I am fast.”

The new rules require that all female athletes must have testosterone levels below 5 nmol/L and maintain this level for six months before a competition. It is not known whether this is healthy or possible for athletes to achieve.


Media Sources: Washington Post 5/1/19; Buzzfeed News 5/1/19

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