After winning two Olympic Gold medals and three World Championship Gold medals, not all of the world are on her side, despite her dominance. Is she breaking world records? No. Are there people close to her? Yes. She is arguably the most dominant figure in female middle distance running at the moment, with her lighting fast closing speed and expert racing tactics. Yet over the years the validity of her gender has been questioned, leading the IAAF to imply a new rule.
The rule put in place – due to the presence of Caster Semenya – is that women with abnormally high testosterone levels have to either compete with the men, or take hormone suppressing drugs to lower their testosterone levels to an ‘acceptable’ level. There are many debates going on today arguing both sides to the case, with Semenya’s track times not being anywhere near the male international standard, her only way of still competing on the international stage is to suppress her natural hormone levels; a case that surely affects Caster – a woman in her mind – on a deeply mental level.
In 2009, following her rapid athletic progression and her physical appearance, the IAAF asked Semenya to take a ‘Sex verification test’, which the results were never officially released, with many rumors spreading that she had ‘intersex traits’. In simple, the tests claimed Semenya was both female and male, but these were just rumors, not official results, so should be processed with scrutiny. As the results processed, the IAAF banned Semenya from competing, but was cleared to return to the world stage in July 2010, showing the IAAF did not have a strong enough case to disallow an athlete from representing their country.
Caster competed over the next few years, winning races, running fast. However, she did not win all of her races, and she didn’t always run the fastest. In 2015 the IAAF declared a new policy when it comes to Hyperandrogenism – high natural levels of testosterone in women. That, however, was short lived. As the rule implied that women had to take hormone suppressors, there were a lot of ethical debates and a lot of research done to try and settle the case. In the end, scientists concluded that there was not enough evidence to prove that testosterone helped enhance female performance, so the case was dropped once again.
From a human perspective, you have got to sympathize for Caster Semenya; As a woman in her own mind, with people doubting her gender and being scrutinized for competing in the sport she loves, with the IAAF trying to imply new rules and policies to try and stop her from competing or change herself biologically. It is inhumane and unethical, it doesn’t matter who you are. However, showing a profound amount of mental resilience, Semenya continued to compete and winning Gold Medals, even making the transition up to the 1500m dominance, proving her 800m closing speed to be dominant in the tactical races over the longer distance.
The back and fourth debate has, however, recently took a turn against Semenya, as the IAAF declared a very similar policy and rule change to that short-lived in 2015. Caster Semenya has been told by the IAAF that she either had to compete as a male, or take hormone suppressing drugs as of April this year. Will the rule hold? Many think not. The debate and case over Semenya is long and complex, and will never be resolved rightfully as accordance to everyone in the world of athletics. I have no doubt the rules will change again, and it is interesting how the IAAF will tackle this case further.
Caster Semenya is on the start-list for the Womens 1500m race tomorrow in the first Diamond League race in Doha, will she be on the start-line? If she is, the story will get even more complicated, with many people perhaps losing faith in the IAAF for handling the situation, and clearly questioning an individual of their Human Rights.