European Rights Court To Take Final Decision On Semenya

European Rights Court To Take Final Decision On Semenya

Caster Semenya’s costly legal marathon enters its last lap as the highest chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Wednesday begins a hearing into whether the double Olympic champion can be required to lower her testosterone levels to compete.

The 33-year-old runner won an earlier round at the ECHR, which last July ruled she was the victim of discrimination from the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

“My hope is that World Athletics, and indeed all sports organisations, will take account of the ECHR’s decision and ensure that the dignity and human rights of athletes are respected,” Semenya said.

Semenya, who is classed as having “differences in sexual development (DSD)” but has always been legally identified as female, has refused to take drugs to reduce her testosterone levels since track and field governing body World Athletics introduced its original rules in 2018.

CAS ruled against her in 2019 and the decision was validated by the Swiss Federal Court in Lausanne in 2020. It declared “fair competition” a “cardinal principle of sport” and said that a testosterone level comparable to that of men gave female athletes “an insurmountable advantage”.

Last July, a seven-member ECHR panel ruled, by four votes to three, that the Swiss court’s decision constituted discrimination and a violation of Semenya’s privacy.

The decision was largely symbolic as it did not call into question the World Athletics ruling nor pave the way for Semenya to return to competition without taking medication.

Swiss authorities, supported by World Athletics, appealed to the European court’s 17-member Grand Chamber. Its ruling is not expected for several months but will be binding.

Semenya, the Olympic 800m champion in 2012 and 2016 and world gold medallist in 2009, 2011 and 2017, is barred from competing at her favoured two-lap distance and was forced to make an unsuccessful move up to 5 000m, a distance which World Athletics opted not to include in its rule.

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