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All strength to Caster

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Semenya now faces taking daily medication, or must start racing at 5000m

Picture: EPA/FRANCK ROBICHON/African News Agency (ANA)

TO THE International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), South African middle distance runner Caster Semenya is like the stepchild that just won’t go away. In fact, this time the two-time Olympic champion and three-time world champion has come back to haunt with a vengeance the organisation that seeks to end her illustrious career.

The result of the face-off will have far-reaching consequences for gender rights.

The IAAF announced in April that from November1 it would limit entry for all international events from 400m through the mile to women with testosterone levels below a specified level.

Women with elevated testosterone must reduce their level for “six months (for example, by use of hormonal contraceptives)” before being eligible to run, and maintain that lowered level.

Testosterone is a hormone that increases muscle mass, strength and haemoglobin, which affects endurance.

This means that Semenya now faces taking daily medication, or must start racing at 5000m.

In 2011, the IAAF enacted a rule to force athletes with hyperandrogenism to artificially lower their testosterone levels to be eligible to compete.

The rules were challenged at sport’s highest court – the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) – in Lausanne, Switzerland, by sprinter Dutee Chand of India, and overturned before the 2016 Olympics.

Now Semenya has signalled her intention to challenge the latest IAAF rules. She will ask the court to put on hold the implementation of the rules until her legal challenge has run its course.

IAAF president Sebastian Coe has emphasised that “no athlete with a DSD (disorders of sex development) has cheated”.

The fact the regulations will apply only in the distances in which Semenya has stamped her authority has raised eyebrows as they suspiciously appear to unfairly target the 27-year-old runner.

Coe’s argument that the regulation is about “levelling the playing field to ensure fair and meaningful competition in the sport of athletics” has been dismissed by South African law professor Steve Cornelius, who has resigned from the IAAF disciplinary tribunal in protest.

Semenya has been treated abysmally since she burst on to the world stage as an 18-year-old at the 2009 World Championships.

We hope she wins her case at the CAS so she can focus on what comes naturally to her – breaking records and winning medals for her country.