Semenya Prevented From Defending Her 800-Metre Title

The Swiss Supreme Court reversed a suspension of the IAAF’s ruling that allowed the South African Olympian to continue racing.


Hailey Middlebrook |

  • A new decision by the Swiss Supreme Court reversed the ruling that allowed Caster Semenya to compete internationally in the 800 metres while her appeal against the CAS was pending.
  • Under this new ruling, Semenya must comply with the IAAF’s regulations on high testosterone levels in female athletes, meaning she would have to undergo hormone intervention in order to continue competing.
  • Semenya announced in a press statement that she will not be defending her 800-metre title in Doha, Qatar, at the World Championships in September.

The drama surrounding two-time Olympic gold medalist Caster Semenya’s eligibility to race continues with a new ruling made by the Swiss Supreme Court earlier this week.

The new ruling says that in order for Semenya to continue competing in distances that are 1500 metres and shorter, she must comply with the regulations enforced by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) in regard to testosterone levels, which were approved by the Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS) in a landmark case on May 1. That means she would have to take hormone suppressants to lower her testosterone levels in order to race those distances.

After the ruling on May 1, the 28-year-old runner – who is assumed to be hyperandrogenic (meaning she naturally has levels of testosterone that exceed the “normal” limits above 10 nmols/litre) – and her legal team filed an appeal of the CAS decision, arguing that such regulations are “a violation of human rights,” according to Semenya in a press release.

While the appeal was pending, the Swiss court allowed Semenya to continue competing this summer without taking hormone suppressants to lower her testosterone levels. She won the 800 metres easily at the Prefontaine Classic in June, breaking the tape in 1:55.70. Ajee Wilson, who won the 800-metre title at the USATF Outdoor National Championships this month, finished second to Caster in 1:58.36.

According to a press release provided to Runner’s World by Caster’s legal team, a single Swiss judge reversed the prior rulings that suspended the IAAF’s regulations pending Caster’s appeal against CAS.

“In this latest decision, the Supreme Court emphasised the strict requirements and high thresholds for the interim suspension of CAS awards and found that these were not fulfilled,” the statement said.

The decision comes at a weighty time, as athletes are now preparing for the World Championships in September. According to the statement, the ruling prevents Semenya from competing at Worlds, where she won the 800-metre title in London in 2017.

“I am very disappointed to be kept from defending my hard-earned title, but this will not deter me from continuing my fight for the human rights of all of the female athletes concerned,” Semenya said in the statement.

“The judge’s procedural decision has no impact on the appeal itself. We will continue to pursue Caster’s appeal and fight for her fundamental human rights,” Dorothee Schramm, the lawyer leading Caster’s appeal, added. “A race is always decided at the finish line.”

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