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IAAF's new gender rule puts Semenya's career on the line

Sebastian Coe

Bengaluru, April 28: The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) new eligibility rules for female classification has stirred up a hornet's nest with South Africa's Caster Semenya being the biggest casualty.

As per the new hyperandrogenism rules published on Thursday (April 26), it prevents women with the condition, which produces higher than normal levels of testosterone and is deemed by the governing body to give them an unfair advantage, from running distances from 400M to the mile.

The IAAF would allow them to compete at international level only if they took medication to reduce naturally occurring levels of testosterone.

According to an IAAF release, these new regulations, approved by its Council in March, will come into effect from November 1, 2018 and replace the previous regulations governing eligibility of females with hyperandrogenism to compete in women's competition, which no longer apply anywhere in the sport.

"We want athletes to be incentivised to make the huge commitment and sacrifice required to excel in the sport, and to inspire new generations to join the sport and aspire to the same excellence," said IAAF President Sebastian Coe.

"As the International Federation for our sport we've a responsibility to ensure a level playing field for athletes. Like many other sports we choose to have two classifications for our competition - men's events and women's events.

"This means we need to be clear about the competition criteria for these two categories. Our evidence and data show that testosterone, either naturally produced or artificially inserted into the body, provides significant performance advantages in female athletes.

"The revised rules aren't about cheating, no athlete with a Differences of Sexual Development has cheated, they're about levelling the playing field to ensure fair and meaningful competition in the sport of athletics where success is determined by talent, dedication and hard work rather than other contributing factors," Coe added.

Semenya, double Olympic and triple world champion in 800M and who completed the 800-1500 double at the recent Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia, has always been a controversial figure in the sport as its authorities have sought a solution that respected her rights.

Caster Semenya

The 27-year-old's powerful physique and deep voice, followed by the revelations of her hyperandrogenism, left some rivals complaining that they faced an impossible and unfair challenge.

The IAAF's previous attempts to regulate the issue fell foul of a Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling in 2015 following an appeal on behalf of Indian athlete Dutee Chand, who had been banned from competing because of her testosterone levels.

The South African first began raising eyebrows when she won the world junior championships in 2008 and the senior world title the following year, with dramatic improvement in her times.

The IAAF made Semenya take a sexual verification test, which was initially kept secret but revealed by the media in 2009.

Since then virtually all of Semenya's performances have been followed by questions about her sexual and physical status, but she has long stopped answering them. But the latest rule, has virtually put her career on the line.

(With IAAF inputs)

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Story first published: Thursday, April 26, 2018, 15:13 [IST]
Other articles published on Apr 26, 2018
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