Europe’s highest human rights court ruled in favor of double Olympic 800-meter champion Caster Semenya, finding that Swiss courts should allow the South African runner to challenge regulations that -obliging female athletes with naturally high testosterone levels to take drugs to lower them.
Semenya, 32, took her case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg after losing an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which ruled in 2019 that World Athletics regulations at the level of testosterone is necessary for fair competition in women.
A subsequent appeal to the Swiss Federal Supreme Court was also rejected.
What did the European Court of Human Rights find?
The ECHR, however, found on Tuesday that Semenya’s original appeal against World Athletics had not been sufficiently heard and that the athlete had been prejudiced.
“The Court found in particular that the applicant did not have sufficient institutional and procedural safeguards in Switzerland to allow him to effectively examine his complaints,” the ECHR said in a statement, referring to the “high stakes of the applicant’s case. ” after ruling by a slim majority of four votes to three.
Who is Caster Semenya?
Semenya, a three-time 800 meters world champion who also won gold in the event at the 2016 Olympics, has a medical condition known as hyperandrogenism characterized by higher than normal levels of testosterone, a hormone that increases mass. , strength and endurance. , and which is found in a greater number of male bodies.
Under World Athletics rules, athletes with “differences in sexual development” (DSDs) that result in high testosterone levels must take steps to bring them down to the level of “a healthy woman with ovaries, ” by taking contraceptive pills, injecting monthly or through. surgery to remove the testes if necessary.
Semenya, whose career has been halted by the ongoing legal process, argued that the rules were discriminatory and that the contraceptive pills made her feel “constantly ill.”
Entering her appeal, she said: “All we ask is to be allowed to run free, once and for all, as the strong and fearless women we are and always will be.”
Human Rights Watch has previously called World Athletics’ regulations “inherently subjective and degrading,” claiming they also disproportionately affect women from the global south.
Semenya: what happens next?
But the governing body stuck to its rules for now, insisting they are aimed at ensuring a level playing field for all athletes, saying: “We remain of the view that the DSD regulations a necessary, reasonable and proportionate means of protecting fair competition in the female category.”
The ECHR’s ruling on Tuesday does not question or overturn World Athletics’ regulations, nor does it enable an immediate return to competition for Semenya.
But this will enable him to return to the Swiss court and continue the legal proceedings.
mf/jt (Reuters, AFP, SID)