Swiss court rules Semenya free to run without medication while appeal is heard

Caster Semenya of South Africa from Team Africa in action during Mixed 4x400m Relay at the IAAF Continental Cup in Ostrava, Czech Republic, 09 September 2018. EPA-EFE/MARTIN DIVISEK
Caster Semenya of South Africa from Team Africa in action during Mixed 4x400m Relay at the IAAF Continental Cup in Ostrava, Czech Republic, 09 September 2018. EPA-EFE/MARTIN DIVISEK

Double Olympic champion Caster Semenya will for now be able to run in her favoured 800 metres event without medication to lower her testosterone levels, her lawyers said on Monday.

They said this would be the situation until her appeal to the Swiss Federal Tribunal has been ruled on.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) had ruled last month that the sport’s ruling body, the IAAF, should make rules for XY chromosome athletes with differences in sexual development (DSDs).

Such athletes are the likes of Semenya, and the rule is for those competing in events ranging from 400 metres to a mile.

The CAS verdict, challenged by South African Semenya, was highly controversial, with many high-profile current and former athletes lining up on both sides of the debate.

“The Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland has ordered the IAAF to immediately suspend the implementation of the eligibility regulations against Caster Semenya.

“This will allow her to compete without restriction in the female category while her appeal is pending,” a statement from Semenya’s lawyers said.

No time frame has been given for when a final ruling might be made, but the IAAF will make further submissions to the court, the statement said.

“The Swiss Supreme Court has granted welcome temporary protection to Caster Semenya.

“This is an important case that will have fundamental implications for the human rights of female athletes,” added Dorothee Schramm of Sidley Austin LLP, Swiss counsel for Semenya.


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The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) said late on Monday it had not been notified of the suspension.

“We have received no information from the Swiss Federal Court. So, we cannot comment at this stage,” an IAAF spokesperson said.

Speaking through her lawyers, Semenya said she remains hopeful of her appeal being successful.

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

Semenya won her last competitive 800 metres race at the Doha Diamond League meeting on May 3, and could potentially race again in Oslo on June 13.

Representatives of the athlete told Reuters that she has not decided on her future plans to run the 800 metres.

It was an event in which she won the Olympic gold medal in 2012 and 2016.

Semenya, 28, is scheduled to complete in a 2,000 metres event in Paris on June 11.

She has also committed to run the 3,000 metres at the Diamond League’s Prefontaine Classic in Stanford, California on June 30.

Testosterone is a hormone that increases muscle mass, strength and haemoglobin.

The IAAF said its own research showed it gave a significant endurance advantage to athletes in the 400 metres-mile range.



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