Violation of Caster Semenya's Human Rights
Two-time Olympic champion Caster Semenya has achieved success in her legal battle against testosterone regulations in athletics. The European Court of Human Rights ruled that the courts had violated her rights. Rio de Janeiro 2016, Summer Olympics, Women's 800-meter final. "Now Caster Semenya is serious, and a few quick steps propel her forward. And looking at the scoreboard will boost her confidence even more," the ARD commentator said back then. "Because she knows from the season that she has a chance to pull this off."
Semenya follows through and wins convincingly. It's the second Olympic gold for the South African, who is also a three-time world champion in the 800 meters. However, even from her first World Championship gold medal in 2009 in Berlin, Semenya's victory was not unbiasedly celebrated.
Her broad shoulders and deep voice were commented upon. And her Italian competitor, Elisa Cusma Piccione, boldly claimed, "To me, she is not a woman; she is a man." International Association Sees Unfair Advantage
Caster Semenya is a woman. However, her body has developed differently in terms of gender. DSD - "Differences of Sexual Development" - is the term used to describe this physical uniqueness. It leads to affected women having elevated testosterone levels.
The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) considers the elevated testosterone levels in women with DSD as a problem. Despite studies yielding varying results, the IAAF views women with increased testosterone levels as having a competitive advantage. Participating in competitions with other female athletes is deemed unfair.
As a result, the association has repeatedly implemented new rules for women with DSD in recent years. The rules were significantly tightened in March, requiring affected female athletes to reduce their testosterone levels with medication up to twice as much as before. Additionally, all female athletes, and not just runners, are now affected. "I Can Never Be What I'm Not"
Semenya refuses to comply with these rules. She no longer wants to take testosterone-reducing medication. She sees the IAAF rules as discriminatory, infringing upon her fundamental rights. "These constant questions: Am I a woman, am I a man? Obviously, that is hurtful, degrading, and offensive," she told South African TV station eNCA. "But one thing is clear to me: I can never be what I'm not."
Semenya has appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and the Swiss Federal Supreme Court, which reviews CAS decisions. So far, she has been unsuccessful. However, the European Court of Human Rights (EHCR) has ruled differently. In a tight decision of four to three judges, the court in Strasbourg has stated that the International Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and the Swiss Federal Supreme Court violated Semenya's rights.
She did not have a chance there for her interests to be adequately taken into account. The obligation to lower testosterone levels with medication is a significant intervention and can be discriminatory. On the other hand, there is only scarce evidence that women with elevated testosterone levels have significant advantages in middle-distance races. Additionally, the side effects of testosterone reduction can be substantial. Due to the courts not sufficiently weighing all these factors, Semenya's human rights have been violated.