South African track star announces her opposition to controversial regulations which she insists are “not fair”

South Africa’s Olympic and world 800m champion Caster Semenya is to challenge new IAAF rules on female classification at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), her lawyers have said.

In April it was announced that female athletes with naturally high testosterone levels will have to race against men or switch events unless they take medication under the new regulations which are set to begin in November.

The rules for athletes who have ‘differences of sexual development’ would apply to the 400m, 400m hurdles, 800m, 1500m, one mile races and combined events over the same distances.

Athletes who wish to compete would be required to take medication for six months beforehand and then maintain a lower testosterone level. Should they not want to take the medication they would be able to compete in international competitions in disciplines other than track events from 400m to the mile, or they could compete in men’s or mixed gender competitions or domestic (non-international) events.

“Ms Semenya, like all athletes, is entitled to compete the way she was born without being obliged to alter her body by any medical means,” her lawyers Norton Rose Fulbright said in a statement.

In the statement, Semenya was quoted as saying: “I just want to run naturally, the way I was born.

“It is not fair that I am told I must change. It is not fair that people question who I am.

“I am Mokgadi Caster Semenya. I am a woman and I am fast.”

When announcing the rule changes, the IAAF pointed to their research which the governing body said showed there is a performance advantage for females with higher testosterone over the track distances.

On Tuesday (June 19), the CAS confirmed it had registered a request for arbitration filed by Semenya against the IAAF.

“Caster Semenya seeks a ruling from CAS to declare such regulations unlawful and to prevent them from being brought into force,” read a statement in part.

“An arbitration procedure has been opened.

“The parties will exchange written submissions and the Panel, once appointed, will issue directions with respect to the holding of a hearing and, at a later date, issue a final decision (Arbitral Award).”

Releasing its own statement on Tuesday, the IAAF said: “The Court of Arbitration for Sport has informed the IAAF this morning that it has received a request for arbitration filed by Caster Semenya vs/ IAAF. We await further information and stand ready to defend the new regulations which were introduced to address the following issue in athletics:

“Sex differences in physical attributes such as muscle size and strength and circulating haemoglobin levels give male athletes an insurmountable competitive advantage over female athletes in sports where size, strength and power matter. These advantages (which translate, in athletics, to an average 10-12% performance difference across all disciplines) make competition between men and women as meaningless and unfair as an adult competing against a child or a heavyweight boxer competing against a flyweight. Only men would qualify for elite-level competition; the best female athlete would not come close to qualifying.

“The evidence gathered by the experts consulted by the IAAF (both peer-reviewed research and observational data from the field) suggests that having levels of circulating testosterone in the normal male range rather than in the normal female range, and being androgen-sensitive gives a female DSD athlete a performance advantage of at least 5-6% over a female athlete with testosterone levels in the normal female range (which is an enormous difference in events where milliseconds count). The effects are most clearly seen in races over distances between 400m and one mile, where the combination of increased lean body mass and elevated circulating haemoglobin appears to have the greatest combined impact.”

» This post was updated on June 19 following the release of a Court of Arbitration for Sport statement and a statement from the IAAF