Caster Semenya fight against testosterone rule is ‘for all women’

Lawyer Gregory Nott says World Athletics ruling barring Semenya from competing in certain track events because of her high natural testosterone is a ‘human rights violation’.

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Semenya: 'All we ask is to be allowed to run free, for once and for all, as the strong and fearless women we are and have always been' [File: Moritz Hager/Reuters]

A lawsuit by South Africa’s two-times Olympic 800 metres champion Caster Semenya in the European Court of Human Rights that challenges restrictions of testosterone in female athletes is a “fight for all women”, her lawyer has said.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Gregory Nott said on Sunday a ruling by the governing body of athletics that prohibits Semenya from competing in certain track events due to her high natural testosterone is “a human rights violation”.

“This is Caster’s fight but she believes it’s a fight for all woman who faced derogatory or prejudicial attacks upon themselves,” he said, speaking from Johannesburg. “She sees it as a fight for all women in a similar situation as herself.”

Earlier this week, the 30-year-old athlete took the case to the European Court of Human Rights to challenge the 2018 rules from World Athletics which banned Semenya and other female athletes with differences of sexual development from races between 400 metres and a mile unless they take hormone-suppressing drugs, daily contraceptive pills, or have surgery.

Semenya was legally identified as female at birth and has identified as female her whole life. She says her testosterone is merely a genetic gift.

Because of her refusal to lower her natural testosterone, Semenya has been barred from running in the 800m since 2019, when she was the dominant runner in the world over two laps.

“We have been surprised by [the lack of emphathy and support from World Athletics] because, after all, she falls under the rubric of world athletics,” Nott said.

“One would anticipate they would stand by the athlete – particularly such as one like Caster – who is an iconic figure not only in her homeland but around the world.”

World Athletics has previously denied it was targeting Semenya.

Semenya has previously unsuccessfully challenged those rules at the Court of Arbitration for Sport and the Swiss Federal Supreme Court.

“I hope the European court will put an end to the longstanding human rights violations by World Athletics against women athletes,” Semenya said in a statement on Thursday.

“All we ask is to be allowed to run free, for once and for all, as the strong and fearless women we are and have always been,” she added.

No dates have been set yet for the hearing of the case.

Meantime, the athlete is yet to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.

She had already decided to compete in the 200m even before the Olympics were postponed to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We believe Caster will be seen at the Olympics, whether it will be running the 200m or 1,500m or whatever it may be, but we believe Caster will be running her agenda and objectives,” Nott said, describing the athlete as “an indomitable spirit”.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies