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Caster Semenya: 'My organs may be different and I may have a deep voice, but I am a woman'

26 April 2021 - 10:00 By unathi nkanjeni
Caster Semenya.
Caster Semenya.
Image: Caster Semenya via Facebook

“They want me to take my own system down. I’m not sick. I don’t need drugs. I will never do that.”

These are the  words Caster Semenya used to describe International Association of Athletics Federation's (IAAF) ruling which bans her from competing in any track event between 400m and 1,500m unless she takes medication to reduce her naturally high testosterone levels.

In an interview with UK's The Guardian newspaper, the double Olympic 800m champion reiterated her refusal to take medication to suppress her testosterone levels, saying the medication would “take the soul out of my body.” 

Semenya said her testosterone levels made her unique, but not the best or any less hardworking like other athletes. 

“I trained like a slave to be the greatest. My high testosterone levels are something I was born with, it’s a disorder. It doesn’t make me the best, though. That’s where the training and knowledge comes in,” said Semenya.

“Michael Phelps’s arms are wide enough for him to do whatever he wants. Swimmers’ lungs are different to other people’s. Basketball players like LeBron James are tall. If all the tall players are banned from playing, will basketball be the same? Usain has amazing muscle fibres. Are they going to stop him, too? My organs may be different and I may have a deep voice, but I am a woman.”

Semenya is likely to miss the Olympic Games in Tokyo this year due to the IAAF's rules regarding female athletes who compete in events between 400m and 1,500m. 

The Olympic Games are set to start on July 23 and end on August 8.

Earlier this month, TimesLIVE reported beauty brand LUX started a petition to overturn the ruling, saying no woman should be “stripped of being a woman” or “judged for how they look”.

“Many super athletes are born with extraordinary biology. Like them, Caster Semenya was born this way. So why ban her? We believe no woman should be stripped of being a woman,” said LUX.

Last month, Athletics SA said it was forging ahead with its plans to force the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to set a hearing date to hear Semenya's appeal case against IAAF despite indications it would only hear the case next year.

Speaking to Sowetan, Athletics SA's Aleck Skhosana said there was no reason the court cannot hear Semenya's appeal before the Olympics.

“It’s been an urgent matter and therefore we have launched an appeal to the ECHR to hear her case before the Olympic Games. We expect the court to hear her matter as soon as possible and that is our position.

“There are four months to go before the games, and you can’t tell me the court cannot find an opening before the period to deal with this urgent matter,” said Skhosana.