Faced with a setback in Swiss federal court, Caster Semenya has announced that she will not defend her 800-meter title at the world track championships this fall.
The court reversed an earlier ruling that would have allowed the South African runner to compete while appealing a new track federation rule that forces her and some other female athletes to take hormone-suppressing medication.
“I am very disappointed to be kept from defending my hard-earned title,” Semenya said in a statement. “But this will not deter me from continuing my fight for the human rights of all of the female athletes concerned.”
The International Assn. of Athletics Federations rule targets women with “differences of sexual development,” meaning they have natural testosterone levels beyond the normal female range.
The IAAF claims this condition, which they estimate occurs in seven of every 1,000 female runners at the elite level, represents an unfair advantage because testosterone is responsible for muscle mass and strength.
Such athletes who compete in events ranging from 400 meters to the mile have been given a choice: Take medication to alter their body chemistry, change distances or compete against men.
Semenya, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and three-time world champion, has long endured scrutiny because of her fast times, broad shoulders and muscular build.
She first challenged the rule in the international Court of Arbitration for Sport, where she lost, then turned to the Swiss court system.
“The judge’s procedural decision has no impact on the appeal itself,” her attorney, Dorothee Schramm, said. “We will continue to pursue Caster’s appeal and fight for her fundamental human rights. A race is always decided at the finish line.”
The IAAF world championships are scheduled to take place in Doha, Qatar, in September.