Caster Semenya, testosterone

Olympic Runner, Caster Semenya, Wins Discrimination Case, Still Fights Against Testosterone Rules

July 11, 2023, marked a significant victory for 32-year-old Olympic champion runner Caster Semenya. 

The European Court of Human Rights ruled that the actions taken towards the runner were discrimination. Regulations enacted by World Athletics required Semenya to reduce her natural hormone levels through medical interventions such as daily contraceptive pills, hormone-blocking injections, or surgery. 

This rule denied Semenya the opportunity to compete for four years, at a time when she was reaching a peak in her career. Semenya was awarded an Olympic gold medal in 2012 and 2016 in the 800-meter event. She could not participate in the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games due to the rule. 

Semenya has a condition known as differences in sex development (DSDs) that results in a natural elevation in her testosterone levels, according to The Associated Press. Semenya’s assigned sex at birth is female, and she has always identified as female. World Athletics, unable to attest to Semnya’s legal gender, argued her condition gives her the same XY chromosome patterns as a male, and gives her traits and an athletic edge similar to male athletes. 

Upset by these claims, Semenya views her testosterone levels as a gift, similar to a tall basketball player or a swimmer with longer arms.

However, according to the outlet, the Strasbourg, France, court ruled this regulation was an encroachment on Semenya’s human rights.

The case went from the Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport to the Swiss Supreme Court. Although the Swiss Supreme Court ruled in Semenya’s favor with a 4-3 decision by a panel of human rights judges, the rule remains in effect, according to the outlet.

World Athletics stated, “We remain of the view that the…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.”


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The victory for Semenya is a small step towards having the rule removed by World Athletics. The rule to regulate testosterone levels was enacted for female athletes only. Male athletes do not have a limit for testosterone levels. According to World Athletics, the regulations affect Semenya and “a number” of athletes.