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UN-backed Semenya optimistic of CAS success in battle with IAAF

23 March 2019 - 11:38 By Reuters
Caster Semenya.
Caster Semenya.
Image: REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/File Photo

Double Olympic 800-metres champion Caster Semenya is “optimistic” of success in her appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) over eligibility regulations in athletics for female classification.

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) contends that Semenya and other female athletes that are classed as having differences in sexual development (DSDs) gain an unfair advantage due to their higher testosterone levels, but only in races between 400 and 1,000-metres.

Under its new rules, which are currently suspended pending the outcome of the CAS case, athletes classed as having DSDs must medically reduce their blood testosterone level for a continuous period of six months before they can compete.

“Caster Semenya remains optimistic that CAS will declare the IAAF’s Regulations unlawful, invalid and of no effect,” Semenya’s lawyers said in a statement on Friday, confirming at the same time that the athlete had made additional submissions to CAS following “post-hearing communications from the IAAF“.

They did not go into detail as to what those submissions were in relation to.

Semenya received support from the United Nations this week as they adopted a resolution tabled by South Africa “aimed at eliminating discrimination against women and girls in sport, giving significant global weight from a human rights perspective to Caster Semenya’s case“, according to a media release from the South African government.

The resolution was co-sponsored by Eswatini (formerly known as Swaziland), Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Burundi, India, Iceland and Canada.

“The international campaign to preserve Caster’s right to participate in global sports is a struggle for all women in the world against discrimination, sexism, and patriarchy,” South Africa’s minister of international relations and cooperation, Lindiwe Sisulu, said.

CAS has called the hearing one of its most pivotal cases that could have a wide reaching consequence, not just for the future of athletics, but sport in general.

The court postponed its verdict from the five-day hearing in February, due to be delivered next week, until the end of April, with no fixed date set.

The IAAF has said that, given the delay, it would alter the six-month rule for the world championships in Qatar in September and introduce a “special transitional period” so that affected athletes could still compete.

It added that, assuming its new regulations were upheld, affected athletes who comply with the new limit from one week after the final CAS decision until the start of the world championships in September would be allowed to take part.