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Caster Semenya Appeals to Swiss Supreme Court on Testosterone Decision

The two-time Olympic champion cites human rights in her refusal to take testosterone-lowering drugs to compete in certain events.

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Caster Semenya, the South African Olympic champion in the 800 meters, announced on Wednesday that she filed an appeal to Switzerland’s federal supreme court against the recent decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to uphold testosterone regulations for female athletes competing in specific track events.

The appeal was made in Switzerland because CAS’s headquarters is in Lausanne.

“I am a woman and a world-class athlete,” Semenya said, in a written statement. “The IAAF will not drug me or stop me from being who I am.”

The policy enacted on May 8 by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the global governing organization of track and field, says that female athletes like Semenya, who have a condition that produces high levels of naturally occurring testosterone, will have to suppress those levels with medication or surgery in order to compete in specified track events from the 400 meters to one mile.

The new rule restricts women with testosterone levels of five nanomoles per liter (nmol/L) or above from competing against other women in the 400 meters, 400-meter hurdles, 800 meters, 1500 meters, and one-mile—distances that the IAAF-sponsored research show a performance advantage for athletes with “differences of sexual development” or DSD.

The World Medical Association has asked physicians to “take no part in implementing new eligibility regulations for classifying female athletes.”

“We have strong reservations about the ethical validity of these regulations,” said Dr. Leonid Eidelman, president of the WMA, in a written statement. “They are based on weak evidence from a single study, which is currently being widely debated by the scientific community.”

On Wednesday, Semenya’s lawyers said “the Swiss Federal Supreme Court will be asked to consider whether the IAAF’s requirements for compulsory drug interventions violate essential and widely recognized public policy values, including the prohibition against discrimination, the right to physical integrity, the right to economic freedom, and respect for human dignity,” according to the Associated Press.

Semenya currently cannot compete in her best events, the 800 and 1500 meters, in Diamond League events or the 2019 world championships, which will take place beginning September 27 in Doha. She’s scheduled to compete on June 30 at the Prefontaine Classic in the 3,000 meters.