Gareth Cotterell
Digital News Editor
2 minute read
3 Sep 2021
1:33 pm

SAHRC goes to bat for Caster Semenya in her fight against eligibility rules

Gareth Cotterell

The SAHRC was granted access by the European Court of Human Rights to intervene in Semenya’s challenge of World Athletics' rules.

Caster Semenya is challenging decisions that prevent her from competing in international competitions. Picture: Roger Sedres/Gallo Images

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) will intervene as a third party in Caster Semenya’s challenge of regulations that prevent her from competing on the international stage.

The commission was granted access by the European Court of Human Rights. This is the first time the SAHRC will be involved in human rights litigation in an international forum.

Semenya is hoping to overturn a ruling by the Swiss Federal Supreme Court which upheld a Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruling to maintain World Athletics’ change in competition eligibility rules for females in certain races.

Difference of Sex Development regulations

The Difference of Sex Development (DSD) regulations bar female athletes who have high levels of testosterone from competing on the international stage in certain races – including Semenya’s favoured 800m – unless they lower their naturally high testosterone levels.

“The Commission wishes to make submissions to the [court] which demonstrate the discriminatory effect of the regulations on the intersecting grounds of race and gender, and which further show how the impugned regulations breach Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) in conjunction with Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) and/or Article 3 (prohibition of torture) of the [European court],” the SAHRC said.

The commission said it will make written submissions to the European court by 12 October 2021.

Semenya is not allowed to compete in races between 400m and a mile without taking testosterone-reducing drugs.

The rules meant that Semenya could not defend her Olympic title in Tokyo earlier this year. She attempted to run in the 5,000m event at the Tokyo Olympics, but didn’t achieve a qualifying time.

READ MORE: No place for Caster as Olympic qualifying window closes

However, the study that led to the rules being implemented has since come under scrutiny. In August, scientists issued a correction to the study that indicated a causal connection between high testosterone levels and enhanced athletic performance in female athletes.

The New York Times reported that the scientists acknowledged that their study was “exploratory” and “could have been misleading by implying a causal inference”.