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South Africa’s Caster Semenya wins appeal against testosterone rules

SOUTH African runner Caster Semenya has won an appeal against track and field’s testosterone rules, with the European Court of Human Rights ruling today that she had been discriminated against.

Semenya and other female athletes with predominantly male features have been made to artificially cut down their natural testosterone levels so that they can be allowed to compete with other women.

Testosterone is a ‘male’ sex hormone, but females produce small amounts in the ovaries and adrenal glands, according to medical journals. Higher testosterone levels can increase the risk of body hair, and other male features, and apparently makes the female stronger.

Today’s ruling could force sport’s highest court, the Court of Arbitration for Sport, to re-examine the regulations that force Semenya and other female athletes to artificially reduce naturally high testosterone levels in order to compete at global competitions like the Olympics and World Athletics Championships.

The Strasbourg-based rights court ruled in Semenya’s favour by a 4-3 majority of judges, AP reported today.

The court also ruled the 32-year-old star, who won women’s 800m gold at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, was denied an ‘effective remedy’ against that discrimination when the Court of Arbitration for Sport and Switzerland’s supreme court denied her two previous appeals against the rules.

It is unclear if today’s verdict could force an immediate ditching of the rules and if Semenya would be allowed to compete at the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

Semanya was once the dominant force in women’s 800m but she has been barred from competing in that event since 2019 by the testosterone rules and did not defend her title at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.

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