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IAAF says Caster Semenya can compete in male events

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The IAAF said Caster Semenya can compete in male events after she lost her case against the association’s rule to force DSD athletes to lower testosterone levels.

On Wednesday, 8 May 2019, the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) said South African 800m champion Caster Semenya could compete in male events. In a letter addressed to World Medical Association (WMA) president Dr Leonid Eidelman and the WMA board, the IAAF announced that Semenya – and other athletes like her – can compete in the female categories in any other distance except those between 400m and a mile (1.6km).

These recent developments mean that Semenya would not be able to partake in the 5 000m race that she won at the South African Athletics Championships in April. The IAAF letter comes after the WMA at the weekend urged doctors not to enforce the controversial new IAAF laws for female athletes.

Defending its stance on the regulations, the IAAF said that it was “the athlete’s right to decide (in consultation with their medical team) whether or not to proceed with any assessment and/or treatment”. However, if Semenya refused to abide by the rule and take medication meant to lower her testosterone levels, “she will not be entitled to compete in the female classification of any restricted event at an international competition”.

This didn’t mean that she couldn’t compete at all.

The IAAF said, “However, she would still be entitled to compete … (1) in the female classification: (a) at any competition that is not an International Competition: in any event, without restriction; and (b) at International Competitions: in any discipline other than track events between 400m and a mile; or (2) in the male classification: at any competition at any level, in any discipline, without restriction; or (3) in any ‘intersex’ (or similar) classification that the event organiser may offer at any competition at any level, in any discipline, without restriction.”

In essence, Semenya could possibly compete in the 100m or 200m sprints, or in any women’s race longer that 1.6km. she is also at liberty to compete in any men’s event over any distance.

The IAAF also reiterated that the new regulations only applied to individuals who are legally female (or intersex), and who have one of a certain number of specified disorders of sex development (DSDs) – which means that they have male chromosomes (XY) and not female chromosomes (XX), have testes and not ovaries, have circulating testosterone in the male range and not the (much lower) female range, and that have the ability to make use of that testosterone circulating within their bodies by having functional androgen receptors.

Semenya has XY chromosomes.

Abenathi Gqomo

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