Wesley Botton
Chief sports writer
3 minute read
4 Jul 2017
12:54 pm

Caster Semenya cleared for World Champs but clouds gather

Wesley Botton

South Africa's sprinting queen's naturally high testosterone levels could hamper her in future if the IAAF wins a case related to the issue.

Caster Semenya can still defend her 800m world title in London next month but what happens to her after that is up to the courts. Photo: Vidar Ruud/Scanpix/Reuters.

While the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) seems confident in the case it is compiling to restrict female athletes with high levels of natural testosterone, the global body has confirmed the impending decision on the matter will not affect Caster Semenya’s campaign at the World Championships in London next month.

Pointing to new research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, which supported the IAAF’s suspended hyperandrogenism regulations, the global body said on Tuesday it would use the study to back itself when its case was heard at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) later this month.

Regardless of the decision, however, the IAAF said any athletes with the condition, which gave women elevated levels of natural testosterone over their opponents, would be allowed to compete in the English capital.

Semenya and her fiercest 800m rivals, Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi and Margaret Wambui of Kenya, were all believed to have been born with the condition.

“While the IAAF will continue to gather evidence and prepare its case, it should be noted that this process will have no impact on the IAAF World Championships in London this August. The hyperandrogenism regulations remain suspended pending the resolution of the CAS proceedings,” the governing body said in a statement.

The study, funded by the IAAF and the World Anti-Doping Agency, analysed 2 127 mass spectrometry-measured serum androgen concentrations obtained from athletes at the 2011 and 2013 editions of the World Championships.

Among other things, it found that female athletes with high testosterone levels benefited from a competitive advantage of up to 4.5% in some track and field events over female athletes with lower testosterone levels.

“Our starting position is to defend, protect and promote fair female competition,” said Dr Stéphane Bermon, who headed the study with Dr Pierre-Yves Garnier.

“If, as the study shows, in certain events female athletes with higher testosterone levels can have a competitive advantage of between 1.8-4.5% over female athletes with lower testosterone levels, imagine the magnitude of the advantage for female athletes with testosterone levels in the normal male range.”

In July 2015, the CAS found in favour of Indian sprinter Dutee Chand and cleared her to compete against women, after she had taken the athletics body to court.

The IAAF’s rule regulating athletes with hyperandrogenism was subsequently suspended and the athletics organisation was given two years to prove natural testosterone unfairly elevated performance levels.

While it was never revealed what “treatment” Semenya received after she was cleared to compete against women in 2010, and while she was also affected by a knee injury and other issues off the track, her performances between 2012 and 2015 indicated that she had lost some of her immense ability by capping her body’s ability to produce natural testosterone.

Following the CAS decision to suspend regulations on androgen levels, Semenya burst back into form last year, setting a national record of 1:55.28 to win the Olympic two-lap title.

After displaying fine form again this season, she was set to line up as the firm favourite to reclaim the world title in London.

The IAAF said it would not comment further on the matter until the CAS proceedings had been concluded.

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