International sports court rules women with high testosterone can be required to take suppressants

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The highest court in international sports on Wednesday ruled that female track athletes with high levels of testosterone can be required to take suppressants to complete in certain women’s races.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled against two-time 800 meter Olympic champion Caster Semenya from South Africa, The New York Times reported.

{mosads}The shocking victory for International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the governing body of track and field, means that certain athletes will be mandated to medically suppress their testosterone levels if they want to compete.

The judges ruled 2-1 that the IAAF policies are discriminatory but can be applied “on the basis of the evidence submitted by the parties, [if] such discrimination is a necessary, reasonable and proportionate means of achieving the IAAF’s aim of preserving the integrity of female athletics in the Restricted Events.”

Semenya has been barred from competing and was subjected to sex tests before returning to the sport.

She blasted the IAAF rule as medically unnecessary and “discriminatory, irrational, unjustifiable,” calling it a violation of the rules of sport and human rights. Her supporters argue that the new protocols were meant to stigmatize and discriminate against women who do not adhere to preconceived ideas of femininity. 

The athlete, a champion at the 800 meter race, said last summer that she doesn’t want to be forced to medically alter her body, according to the outlet.

“I just want to run naturally, the way I was born,” Semenya said. “It is not fair that I am told I must change. It is not fair that people question who I am.”

She responded to the ruling with a quote on Twitter reading “sometime it’s better to react with no reaction.”


The IAAF had long grappled with how athletes with high testosterone levels should be included in competitions divided between men and women. Female athletes with high levels are legally female to the IAAF but considered effectively biologically male for competition, the Times noted.

Most women, including elite female athletes, have natural testosterone levels of 0.12 to 1.79 nanomoles per liter, the IAAF argued in court. The typical male range after puberty is significantly higher — 7.7 to 29.4 nanomoles per liter.

The ruling comes as Semenya hopes to defend her world title in September in Doha, Qatar, Time magazine reported. It also comes as the International Olympic Committee prepares to set guidelines for participants in the 2020 Olympics next summer in Tokyo.

The move comes as transgender athletes are no longer required to undergo reassignment surgery to participate in the Olympics, but do face some restrictions.

Those transitioning from female to male can compete without restriction, but athletes transitioning from male to female must also suppress their testosterone level to below 10 nanomoles per liter for a year before becoming eligible for the winter or summer games.

The new ruling from the Court of Arbitration for Sport could prompt the International Olympic Committee to adopt the more restrictive requirements, the Times noted.

Tags Caster Semenya Hormones Olympics South Africa testosterone Transgender

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