Olympian receives strong backing from South African government and fellow athletes
South Africans have expressed widespread support for the double Olympic champion Caster Semenya, who will run her last 800m on Friday before the imposition of controversial new rules limiting testosterone in female athletes.
Tokozile Xasa, the sports minister, said on Thursday that the South African government was disappointed with the ruling by the court of arbitration for sport that women with unusually high testosterone levels, such as Semenya, would have to take medication to significantly reduce their testosterone before they were permitted to compete internationally at distances between 400m and a mile.
“As the South African government we have always maintained that these regulations trample on the human rights and dignity of Caster Semenya and other women athletes,” she said.
The African National Congress, the ruling party, issued a statement describing the judgment as “disheartening” and accused the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) of “acting in a prejudicial manner that divides rather than unites athletes”.
The new rules oblige “hyperandrogenic” athletes – those with “differences of sexual development” (DSD) – to lower their testosterone levels if they wish to compete as women.
Under the rules to take effect on 8 May, female athletes with high natural levels of testosterone wishing to compete in events from 400m to a mile must medically limit that level to less than 5 nanomoles per litre (nmol/L). The normal level for women is below 2 nmol/L.