S. African sports minister off to Switzerland to support Semenya at hearing

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JOHANNESBURG, February 21 – South African Minister of Sport and Recreation Tokozile Xasa left for Switzerland on Wednesday to back the country’s 800m double Olympic champion Caster Semenya at a hearing on a new set of regulations proposed by the IAAF to restrict female athletes’ testosterone levels.

Semenya’s case at the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CSA) against the International Association of Athletic Federation (IAAF) started on Monday in Switzerland. The proposed IAAF ruling will see Semenya forced to lower her natural testosterone levels if she wants to keep competing in women’s athletics. Xasa said the nation is behind Semenya.

“Upon my arrival in Switzerland, my responsibility will be to convey the message of support from President Cyril Ramaphosa and have an opportunity to listen to the deliberations which are based on scientific and human rights principles,” Xasa said in a statement before her departure.

The sport department has also assembled a team consisting of legal and medical experts to be part of the case. Xasa said that she would give support to the team.

“I will also engage members of the media and address the international community on South Africa’s stance on human rights principles and scientific research in relation to female classification or reclassification,” the minister said.

The CAS will hear the landmark case in Lausanne later this week. The hyperandrogenism regulations were originally scheduled to come into effect in November 2018, but were delayed after Semenya, the reigning world champion in the 400m and 800m track, lodged an appeal against them.

The IAAF said that female athletes with natural high levels of testosterone like Semenya have an unfair advantage over other female runners. Calling the regulations “a gross violation of internationally accepted standards of human rights law,” the South African government earlier voiced suspicion that the regulations specifically targets Semenya as they are only applicable to 400m to mile, including 400m, hurdle races, 800m and 1,500m, the categories wherein coincidentally Semenya participates and generally dominates. Semenya’s legal team released a statement noting that the two-time 800m Olympic champion wishes to be able to compete without being “required to undergo unnecessary medical intervention.”

The 28-year-old Semenya has also received support from sports personalities, including American tennis legend Billie Jean King, who was born in November 1943. “My friend Caster Semenya is unequivocally female. Forcing women with naturally high testosterone to give up ownership of their bodies and take drugs to compete in sport is barbaric, dangerous, and discriminatory. I stand behind her and hope she prevails,” Billie Jean King tweeted. (Xinhua)