Caster Semenya Loses Latest Legal Battle in Swiss Supreme Court

This might completely take away the two-time Olympian’s chance of defending her 800-meter title in Tokyo.

  • Caster Semenya lost her appeal against track and field’s rules that put a limit on female runners’ natural testosterone levels.
  • A Swiss federal court delivered the decision on September 8 that likely ends the two-time Olympic champion’s chances of defending her 800-meter title at the 2020 Olympics.
  • The 29-year-old is already training to compete in the 200 meters, a distance World Athletics said she is able to compete in.

South Africa’s Caster Semenya suffered a big blow in her long legal battle against track and field’s regulations on female runners with naturally high testosterone levels, according to the Associated Press.

On September 8, Switzerland’s supreme court delivered the 71-page decision to dismiss Semenya’s appeal against the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruling in May 2019. That ruling upheld World Athletics’s policy that female track athletes with differences of sex development (DSD), like Semenya, must lower their testosterone level for at least six months in order to compete in certain events.

This means the two-time 800-meter Olympic champion cannot defend her title at the Tokyo Olympics next July, nor can she compete at any World Athletics meets in distances between the 400 and the mile, unless she agrees to lower her testosterone level through medication or surgery.

“I am very disappointed by this ruling, but refuse to let World Athletics drug me or stop me from being who I am,” Semenya said in a statement through her lawyers. “Excluding female athletes or endangering our health solely because of our natural abilities puts World Athletics on the wrong side of history.”

In coming to this decision, the Swiss Federal Tribunal, a panel of five federal judges, said its role was to determine “whether the CAS decision violates fundamental and widely recognized principles of public order.”

The Swiss Federal Tribunal said Semenya’s appeal to the May 2019 decision “essentially alleges a violation of the prohibition of discrimination.”

That initial decision deemed, in a 2-to-1 ruling, that the rules aimed at Semenya were “necessary, reasonable and proportionate” to maintain fairness in women’s track. The Swiss court determined that was not the case, and that Semenya’s “guarantee of human dignity” was also not compromised by the CAS ruling.

“Implicated female athletes are free to refuse treatment to lower testosterone levels. The decision also does not aim to question in any way the female sex of implicated female athletes,” the federal court said.

According to the Associated PressSemenya’s legal team is considering what actions they can potentially take moving forward. Based on the how long it took for judgments to come through in these cases, it is unlikely to be resolved by the upcoming Olympics.

Semenya has started training for the 200 meters, a distance in which she would be allowed to compete.

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