Caster Semenya wins temporary stay of new testosterone rule

Caster Semenya celebrates after winning the women's 800 meters during the IAAF Diamond League meeting May 3 in Doha, Qatar.
Caster Semenya celebrates after winning the women’s 800 meters during the IAAF Diamond League meeting May 3 in Doha, Qatar.
(Noushad Thekkayil / EPA/Shutterstock)

Caster Semenya has won a temporary victory in her fight against a new track federation rule that would force her to take hormone-altering medication if she wants to continue racing.

The Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland ordered Monday that the rule be immediately suspended, giving the International Assn. of Athletics Federations until later this month to respond.

“I am thankful to the Swiss judges for this decision,” Semenya said in a statement. “I hope that following my appeal I will once again be able to run free.”


The South African athlete and two-time Olympic gold medalist at 800 meters has become the focus of vehement debate surrounding the proposed standard.

The IAAF wants to regulate the participation of Semenya and other female athletes who have “differences of sexual development,” or DSD, meaning they have naturally occurring testosterone levels beyond the normal female range.

The federation claims that, because testosterone stimulates muscle mass and strength, this condition represents an unfair advantage. Athletes with DSD would face a choice: Take medication to lower their levels or compete against men.

The rule would apply to events ranging from the 400 meters to the mile.

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Semenya, 28, recently lost a challenge with the Court of Arbitration for Sport, a specialized judicial body in Switzerland, and filed an appeal with the country’s highest court. She has vowed never to take medication, prompting speculation that she might retire or switch to a longer-distance event in mid-career if the rule is allowed to stand.

United Nations officials, the South African government and sports stars such as Billie Jean King have rallied to her defense.

There was no immediate comment from the IAAF on Monday. Semenya may continue to race pending the Swiss court’s final decision.

Her attorney, Dorothee Schramm, said: “This is an important case that will have fundamental implications for the human rights of female athletes.”

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