Olympic Champion Runner Says Female Testosterone Limits Violate Her Human Rights

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Julia Canzano Contributor
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Caster Semenya, a South African Olympic runner, says female testosterone limits set by World Athletics violate her human rights.

Semenya is hyperandrogenous, which means that she naturally has high levels of testosterone, according to CNN. She appealed to the European Court of Human Rights on Thursday and is challenging the rules introduced by World Athletics (previously known as the International Association of Athletics Federations, or IAAF) in 2018 that regulate the level of testosterone in female athletes.

For Semenya, the rules state that in order to compete internationally at distances between 400 meters and one mile, she must take testosterone-reducing medication. Semenya has declined to do so and is instead training to qualify for the 200 meters at the postponed Tokyo Olympics, according to CNN. (RELATED: Study Says Transgender Women Maintain Athletic Advantage Over Biological Women)

The new rules “are about leveling the playing field to ensure fair and meaningful competition,” according to a press release from World Athletics. For female athletes who do not wish to lower their testosterone levels, World Athletics says that they can compete in the female division but with certain restrictions. For those who do wish to lower their testosterone levels, they will need to take either daily contraceptive pills, hormone-blocking injections, or undergo surgery.

“The regulations require these women to undergo humiliating and invasive physical examinations followed by harmful and experimental medical procedures if they wish to compete internationally in women’s events between 400m and one mile, the exact range in which Ms. Semenya specializes,” said Semenya’s lawyers.

Semenya lost an appeal in April 2019 to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and again in September 2020 to Switzerland’s Federal Supreme Court, according to CNN.