South African runner Caster Semenya must start suppressing her natural testosterone levels to compete as a woman in certain track events, which could affect her impressive speed.
Semenya, the 28-year-old who holds two Olympic gold medals, lost her appeal to the Court for Arbitration in Sport in Switzerland on Wednesday afternoon. The 2-1 decision marks the end of a nearly yearlong battle between Semenya and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), track’s governing body.
“I know that the IAAF’s regulations have always targeted me specifically,” Semenya said in a statement through her lawyers. “For a decade, the IAAF has tried to slow me down, but this has actually made me stronger. The decision of the CAS [court] 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.”
In 2018, the IAAF announced a new rule concerning female athletes with a condition called hyperandrogenism, which results in increased testosterone production. The IAAF decided that elevated testosterone levels give them an unfair advantage in races ranging from 400 meters to one mile and instituted a new policy that mandated that female athletes with the condition take medication, such as contraceptives, to reduce their testosterone levels.
Semenya and her legal team argued that she shouldn’t have to alter her body to compete and pointed out that other athletes are celebrated for their genetic variations.