With Caster Semenya’s elite athletics career potentially hanging by a thread, local officials broke their silence yesterday, revealing they would continue to challenge new gender rules by taking their battle against the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) back to court.
Sport and Recreation Minister Tokozile Xasa said government had backed a decision by Athletics SA (ASA) to appeal a recent judgment after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) had cleared controversial new IAAF regulations last month which sideline Semenya from the track.
“ASA will appeal the judgment of the CAS and lodge its papers within the prescribed and stipulated period,” the department of sport said.
The national athletics body had applied for two of the three arbitrators on the CAS panel to be recused, claiming they were conflicted after being involved in a previous case between the IAAF and Indian sprinter Dutee Chand in 2015.
ASA also insisted the outcome of the arbitration case it had jointly filed with Semenya was “inconceivable”, calling on CAS to address some of the concerns it had raised in its judgment, including implementation of the IAAF regulations and potential ethical issues.
In an effort to gain further support in the landmark case, ASA said it would approach other national federations and petition to have the regulations rescinded.
It was also planning to launch a political attack on its mother body’s hierarchy by lobbying against the IAAF executive.
The department said: “The minister has also directed that the department of sport and recreation should work with other organs of state to intensify the international lobby and to approach the United Nations General Assembly to sanction the IAAF for violating international human rights instruments.”
The IAAF regulations, which came into effect last week, forced athletes with differences of sexual development (DSD) to take medication in order to reduce their natural testosterone levels if they wanted to compete internationally against women over distances ranging from 400m to the mile (1.609km).
The CAS panel said it had been unable to establish that the DSD regulations were “invalid”, and though it did admit the rules were discriminatory, it felt such discrimination was “necessary and reasonable” in order to preserve the integrity of women competing in restricted events.
While the IAAF had been applauded by some for the stance it had taken by restricting DSD athletes, it had also been widely criticised, with the UN Human Rights Council claiming the athletics body was in danger of violating the rights of DSD athletes.
Following the release of the CAS judgment, the World Medical Association also warned doctors that they could be in breach of their code of ethics if they were involved in enforcing the rule by administering medication.
While Semenya’s legal team has not reacted to the announcement from government, the 28-year-old Olympic champion took to social media this week, sharing brief but emphatic statements, including “resist” and “aluta continua [the struggle continues]”.