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Washington Blade: LGBTQ News, Politics, LGBTQ Rights, Gay News: European Court of Human Rights rules in favor of Caster Semenya


Two-time Olympic champion Caster Semenya, who has been sidelined from her signature track and field event since 2019, has finally won an appeal of testosterone rules that the European Court of Human Rights say discriminated against her. 

Even so, the South African runner cannot expect to be back in the 800 meter race anytime soon, according to track and field’s governing body.

That’s because Semenya’s case was solely against the government of Switzerland, whose Supreme Court upheld rules imposed by World Athletics, not against the sports organization itself. Although a 4-3 majority of judges on the European court found “serious questions” about the validity of those rules, World Athletics said in reaction to the decision that its rules would remain in place, according to the Associated Press.

However, Tuesday’s ruling in Semenya’s favor on the complaint of discrimination has cast serious doubt about the regulations and how World Athletics, which enforces the rules, handled her appeal. The judges noted she was denied an “effective remedy” against that discrimination through the two previous cases she lost at the Court of Arbitration for Sport and the Swiss supreme court.

Semenya has identified as female her entire life and her sex has been legally verified as female. But World Athletics changed its rules in 2019 that would have forced her to artificially suppress her natural testosterone to be allowed to compete in women’s competitions. Semenya refused to comply.

Although Semenya has never confirmed this, World Athletics says she has one of a number of conditions known as differences in sex development, or DSD. That condition typically results in a natural testosterone level higher than most other women competitors, in the typical male range. World Athletics claims that gives athletes with DSD an unfair advantage.

Restrictions on Semenya and the dozen or so other athletes with DSD — the majority of whom are Black or brown-skinned — as well as a ban on trans women athletes — went into effect on March 31, as the Washington Blade reported. 

But the European rights court ruled there was a lack of evidence that high natural testosterone actually gave athletes an advantage, and lambasted the CAS for not properly considering important factors such as the side effects of the hormone treatment and the difficulties for athletes to remain in compliance of the rules. 

The government of Switzerland was ordered to pay Semenya the equivalent of $66,000 in euros, to compensate for costs and expenses related to her appeal. The European rights court noted Semenya’s “high personal stakes” given how the regulations interrupted her career and affected her profession, according to the AP.

Semenya is training to run at next year’s Olympics in Paris in longer events than the 800m contests where she won Olympic gold in 2012 and 2016. She did not defend her title at the Tokyo Olympics because of the testosterone regulations.

Whether the CAS or World Athletics is pressured to revisit its regulations remains unclear, but the sporting authority stood by them in a statement issued after the ruling Tuesday: “We remain of the view that the DSD regulations are a necessary, reasonable and proportionate means of protecting fair competition in the female category as the Court of Arbitration for Sport and Swiss Federal Tribunal both found, after a detailed and expert assessment of the evidence.”

The post European Court of Human Rights rules in favor of Caster Semenya first appeared on Washington Blade: LGBTQ News, Politics, LGBTQ Rights, Gay News.

The post European Court of Human Rights rules in favor of Caster Semenya appeared first on Washington Blade: LGBTQ News, Politics, LGBTQ Rights, Gay News.

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