Following the decision by the Swiss Federal Tribunal to uphold the 2019 ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) that ordered Olympic champion Caster Semenya to take medication to reduce her testosterone levels in order to compete, South Africa’s political parties are gearing up to give the star athlete their support.
Semenya appeal dismissed
The ruling, introduced in the World Athletics Guidelines in 2019, meant that Semenya would have to take testosterone-reducing drugs in order to compete in races from 400m to 1 500m. The 29-year-old has chosen not to do so, and has fought tooth and nail for her right to compete.
Semenya has hit another hurdle though, with her appeal to Switzerland’s Federal Supreme Court having been dismissed on Tuesday 8 September. The World Athletics governing body welcomed the ruling and said that their wish is not to police Semenya’s gender identity.
“World Athletics fully respects each individual’s personal dignity and supports the social movement to have people accepted in society based on their chosen legal sex and/or gender identity,” they said in a statement on Tuesday 8 September.
“As the Swiss Federal Tribunal (SFT) specifically recognised, however, the DSD [differences of sexual development] regulations are not about challenging an individual’s gender identity, but rather about protecting fair competition for all female athletes.”
Political parties rally behind Semenya
In response to the ruling, Sports Minister Nathi Mthethwa said that government would study the ruling before deciding on how to proceed, however he called for South Africans to support Semenya.
“We call upon all South Africans‚ Africans and the entire world to rally behind Caster in our quest to defeat injustice against women in sport and in particular African women,” Mthethwa said.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) said on Wednesday 9 September that they call on the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) and the South African government to “use all available legal avenues to show our country’s opposition to this decision and fight for Semenya’s right to compete on the international stage”.
“We are disappointed with this unfair judgement as it discriminates against female athletes who happen to have higher testosterone levels in their bodies,” said Tsepo Mhlongo, the DA’s Shadow Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture
“To arbitrarily dictate on the bodies of women athletes in this manner infringes on their human rights and tramples on their dignity. It also sets an awful precedent for the treatment of women in sport,” he said.
‘Doors might be closed, but not locked’
Semenya herself was defiant in the wake of the decision, and said that she would continue to fight for her right to compete.
“Chills my people, a man can change the rules but the very same man cannot rule my life,” Semenya wrote on Twitter after the ruling was announced.
“What I’m saying is that I might have failed against them (but) the truth is that I have won this battle long ago.
“Go back to my achievements then you will understand. Doors might be closed (but) not locked.”