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Athletics world in uproar

Olympic athlete Caster Semenya has lost a landmark appeal to the International Association of Athletics Federation’s ruling on testosterone levels, sparking claims of discrimination in sport.

Caster Semenya post race. Image: Flickr

The case ruling will now change the regulation for female athletes’ eligibility to compete in the world championships.

Females with naturally high testosterone levels will be asked to undergo hormone reduction therapy in order to provide an equal playing field.

The IAAF said this rule will come into action May 8, 2019 in a bid to preserve the integrity of female athletics in track and field events.

A statement by the governing body said regulations were found to be necessary, reasonable and proportionate.

The case has highlighted the bigger issue of discriminatory politics in sport and the ongoing history of inequality of female athletes.

Sport Ethics expert Dr Michael Burke from Victoria University said there was a lack of scientific credibility for the Court of Arbitration of Sport to make a justifiable decision.

“Scientifically, ethically and sociologically and in term of human rights, this is a terrible decision,” he said.

“I especially like the irony of [IAAF] claiming the high moral ground of fairness, whilst British and American athletes benefit from generous funding.”

Sport and Exercise Medicine Physician Sandra Mejak said higher testosterone has superior benefits to athletes.

“Hormone differences casts a large advantage,” she said.

As part of the Sports Medicine Australia Council, Mejak said she supported the decision handed down by the court.

“This is a very complex issue but I agree with the decision,” she said.

“In a way it is discriminatory, but it is also unfair to other athletes who do not have the same advantage.”

Semenya is a 2016 Olympic gold medalist in the women’s 800m sprint.

However, experts predict the new regulations will drop her time by seven seconds, decreasing the odds of her being able to compete at the same level.

Social media outrage sparked immediately after the CAS handed down its verdict yesterday afternoon, stating differences of sex development among women athletes is a concerning issue.

1978 Commonwealth athlete Roxanne Gellè, who lives in Perth, said the decision made by the court was unfair.

“Because she was born female … it could’ve been an unfair decision,” she said. 

“However, in ensuring that everyone gets an equal opportunity we have to look at a broad range of facts that has led them to make this decision.”

The former athlete said females have always been under scrutiny by the governing bodies of sport.

“One of the first activities we were requested to do was to be tested to see whether we were male or female,” she said.

“They took a small swab of my cheek, it was tested and I got a certificate saying I passed.”

Semenya may look to move up to the 5000m event where the sexual development regulations are different.

The next IAAF event will be held in Doha on May 3, 2019.

Former athlete Roxanne Gelle speaking on the issue. Video: Jonathan Fernandes

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