South African Runner Caster Semenya Barred From World Championships 800 Meters Over Testosterone

Kevin Mwanza
Written by Kevin Mwanza
Caster Semenya
South Africa’s Caster Semenya competes in the women’s 800-meter race during the Prefontaine Classic, an IAAF Diamond League athletics meeting, in Stanford, Calif., Sunday, June 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

South African middle-distance runner Caster Semenya was barred by a Swiss court from competing at the World Championships in Doha in September due to her naturally elevated levels of testosterone.

In order to compete and defend her 800-meters title, she would need to take testosterone-reducing medication which Semenya refuses to do.

New policy stops Caster Semenya from competing

A revised policy by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) does not allow athletes with a difference of sexual development (DSD) to compete in international competitions until they reduce their blood testosterone to a specific level for at least six months and maintain it at that level during their athletic career.

That means athletes with circulating testosterone of five nanomoles or more per liter of blood (5nmol/L) and who are androgen-sensitive must meet certain criteria if they want to compete internationally.


Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 18: Boyce Watkins
Jamarlin talks with Dr. Boyce Watkins about the lopsided relationship between the Democratic Party and Black America. They discuss potential 2020 presidential candidates, Sen. Cory Booker and Sen. Kamala Harris, and whether corporations and interests connected to foreign countries have more influence than Black voters on policy and priorities.

The Swiss Federal Tribunal’s ruling against Semenya, a two-time Olympic champion in the 800-meters race, reversed an earlier decision by the same court that allowed her to compete without having to take testosterone-reducing medication.

“I am very disappointed to be kept from defending my hard-earned title,” Semenya said in a statement in reaction to the ruling.

“This will not deter me from continuing my fight for the human rights of all of the female athletes concerned.”

Semenya’s attorney said she planned to appeal to overturn the eligibility limitations placed on athletes who have sexual development disorders, according to the New York Times.

The IAAF hailed the decision to lock Semenya out of the World competitions saying “biology has to trump gender identity”.