New testosterone rules set to impact on Caster Semenya

South Africa's Caster Semenya in action at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Picture: Adrian DennisS/AFP/Getty Images
South Africa's Caster Semenya in action at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Picture: Adrian DennisS/AFP/Getty Images
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Double Olympic 800 metres champion Caster Semenya will have to take medication to lower her testosterone levels or move up to longer distances as a result of new rules which will be announced today.

The International Association of Athletics Federations revealed in March that it hoped to reinstate a revised version of its controversial hyperandrogenism rules by 1 November.

Suspended by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in 2015, the rules were introduced in 2009 as a response to concerns about female athletes with naturally high levels of the male sex hormone testosterone, such as South Africa’s Semenya, having an unfair advantage.

The CAS ruling, which resulted from a legal challenge by Indian sprinter Dutee Chand, invited the IAAF to commission scientific research to justify its testosterone ceiling for female athletes. That research, led by two French scientists, was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in July 2017 and formed the basis of an IAAF appeal, which was finally settled in December when CAS told the governing body it could propose revised rules.

The research found that female athletes with high testosterone had a “significant competitive advantage”, particularly in the 400m, 400m hurdles, 800m, hammer throw and pole vault, but the IAAF has decided to initially focus on track events, although it has described the rules as a “living document”.

With the new rules being formally announced today, it is understood the IAAF is confident they would stand up to any possible legal challenge.

Semenya, 27, has lived with this debate ever since it emerged she was subjected to a gender verification test at the 2009 World Championships, where she won the first of her three world titles at the distance, aged just 18.