Caster Semenya is currently unable to defend her Olympic 800m title

Credit: AP

Caster Semenya is taking her legal battle against rules to limit female runners’ testosterone levels to the European Court of Human Rights, her lawyers have confirmed.

The move was announced just over two months after Switzerland’s supreme court said its judges had dismissed Semenya’s appeal against a Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling last year that upheld the rules drafted by World Athletics affecting female runners with differences of sex development.

“We will be taking World Athletics to the European Court of Human Rights,” said Semenya’s lawyer, Greg Nott, without placing a time-frame on the appeal.

“We remain hopeful that World Athletics will see the error it has made and reverse the prohibitive rules which restrict Ms Semenya from competing.”

World Athletics said in response: “For many years World Athletics (formerly IAAF) has fought for and defended equal rights and opportunities for all women and girls in our sport today and in the future. Throughout this long battle, World Athletics has always maintained that its regulations are lawful and legitimate, and that they represent a reasonable, necessary and proportionate means of ensuring the rights of all female athletes to participate on fair and equal terms. It has rejected the suggestion that they infringe any athlete’s human rights, including the right to dignity and the right to bodily integrity. Both the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and the Swiss Federal Tribunal (SFT) agreed.

“In its decision in early September, the SFT concluded, ‘Based on these findings, the CAS decision cannot be challenged. Fairness in sport is a legitimate concern and forms a central principle of sporting competition. It is one of the pillars on which competition is based. The European Court of Human Rights also attaches particular importance to the aspect of fair competition. In addition to this significant public interest, the CAS rightly considered the other relevant interests, namely the private interests of the female athletes running in the “women” category’.”

Semenya said following the SFT ruling: “I am very disappointed by this ruling, but refuse to let World Athletics drug me or stop me from being who I am. Excluding female athletes or endangering our health solely because of our natural abilities puts World Athletics on the wrong side of history.

 “I will continue to fight for the human rights of female athletes, both on the track and off the track, until we can all run free the way we were born. I know what is right and will do all I can to protect basic human rights, for young girls everywhere.”

September’s ruling prevents Semenya defending her Olympic 800-metre title at the Tokyo Games next year, or competing at elite level at distances from 400m to the mile, unless she agrees to lower her testosterone level through medication or surgery – something she has repeatedly refused to do.

The federal court said it was limited to examining “whether the CAS decision violates fundamental and widely recognised principles of public order. That is not the case”.

Its judgment came more than a year after the two-time Olympic champion lost a previous CAS case. That July 2019 verdict overturned a temporary ruling which briefly allowed Semenya to compete in the 800m without taking testosterone-suppressing drugs.”