22nd March 2019

Semenya will be eligible for Doha despite delay to CAS case

Caster Semenya will be able to compete in the Doha 2019 International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championships even if she loses her Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) case against its Differences of Sex Development Regulations, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) confirmed today. A delay to a ruling from the CAS until the end of April meant that Semenya faced exclusion from Doha unless she won her case against the Regulations. Article 2.3(b) of the IAAF’s Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification (Athletes with Differences of Sex Development) Regulations – to use their full title – require athletes subject to them to use hormonal contraceptives to reduce testosterone levels to below 5 mol/L for six months prior to competing.

As the Doha Worlds take place from 28 September to 6 October, a ruling in favour of the IAAF at the end of April would not have given Semenya six months in which to lower her testosterone levels. Until the IAAF made its special provision today, this meant that unless Semenya won her case and the DSD Regulations were dismissed, she would have been ineligible for Doha.

‘Following the announcement that the CAS award concerning the IAAF Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification (Athletes with Differences of Sex Development) will not be released until April, the IAAF has decided that the delay should not prejudice the affected athletes’, wrote an IAAF spokesperson in an email to The Sports Integrity Initiative, after we pointed out the anomaly. ‘Assuming the regulations are upheld, the IAAF will introduce a special transitional provision by which affected athletes who comply with the 5nmol/L limit, starting one week after the release of the award, will be eligible for the IAAF World Athletics Championships in September, 2019’.

‘Since the hearing held in Lausanne, Switzerland, from 18 to 22 February 2019, the parties have filed additional submissions and materials and agreed to postpone the issuance of the CAS award until the end of April 2019’, read the CAS statement. ‘No specific date has been set yet’. 

On 20 March, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) adopted a Resolution on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and Girls in Sport. The Resolution (PDF below) asks the UN Commissioner for Human rights to prepare a report on the intersection of race and gender discrimination in sports, which will be presented to the UNHRC at its 44th session from 26-28 June in Geneva. The DSD Regulations appear to be the reason why it has asked the Commissioner to do this.

The Resolution expresses concern that the DSD Regulations:

• Are not compatible with international human rights standards;
• Do not provide evidence as to how they are reasonable, objective, and proportional;
• Contravene international human rights standards through the requirement to lower blood testosterone levels;
• May lead to the exclusion of women and girls on the basis of their physical and biological traits, reinforcing negative gender stereotypes.

As such, the UNHRC calls upon States to ensure that sporting bodies implement policies and practices that are compatible with international human rights standards. It also asked States to ensure that sporting bodies ‘refrain from developing and enforcing policies and practices that force, coerce or otherwise pressure woman and girl athletes into undergoing unnecessary, humiliating and harmful medical procedures in order to participate in women’s events in competitive spots, and to repeal rules, policies and practices that negate their rights to bodily integrity and autonomy’. 

The IAAF defended itself against the allegations that the DSD Regulations contravene international human rights standards. ‘It is clear that the author is not across the details of the IAAF Regulations nor the facts presented recently at the Court of Arbitration for Sport’, read a statement sent to the BBC. ‘There are many generic and inaccurate statements contained in the motion presented to the UN Human Rights Council so it is difficult to work out where to start. The common ground is that we both believe it is important to preserve fair competition in female sport so women are free to compete in national and international sport. To do this it is necessary to ensure the female category in sport is a protected category, which requires rules and regulations to protect it, otherwise we risk losing the next generation of female athletes, since they will see no path to success in female sport.’

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