Controversial IAAF ruling that banned Caster from running hits second African country

Kenya has dropped two of its short distance female sprinters after they tested high for testosterone level.
Kenya has dropped two of its short distance female sprinters after they tested high for testosterone level.
Image: IAN MACNICOL

The controversial International Association of Athletics Federations' rule which resulted in world champion Caster Semenya being banned from competing in short and middle distance athletics events is having a wider ramification.

Kenya dropped two female sprinters from the team for the IAAF World Relays championship in Japan this week, after blood tests showed high levels of testosterone, Athletics Kenya said Friday.

The decision to leave Kenya’s 100m and 200m champion Maximilla Imali and 400m runner Evangeline Makena off the team comes after South Africa’s Caster Semenya lost a court challenge against plans to force some women to regulate their testosterone levels.

The decision last week by the Court of Arbitration for Sport means that female athletes with elevated testosterone will have to take suppressive treatment if they wish to compete as women in certain events.

“We could not risk travelling with the two athletes after the recent IAAF ruling on the restriction of testosterone levels on female runners took effect on May 8,” Athletics Kenya (AK) director of competitions Paul Mutwii said.

It is not the first time that 23-year-old Imali, who also holds the Kenyan 400m record, has undergone a blood test to determine her testosterone levels. In 2015 she was withdrawn from the world championships in Beijing after her blood test revealed her hyperandrogenism.

“We were summoned for the blood tests at the team hotel last Friday and when the report came out on Monday, Athletics Kenya officials inform us about the result outcome,” Imali said, adding it was not the first time that she learnt about her medical issue.

“This is a scheme to demoralise us. I am not ready to quit athletics, nor to take a suppressant treatment. I am so happy the way God made me to be.” The new rule applies to distances from 400m to a mile, and includes the heptathlon, which concludes with an 800m race.

Aside from Imali and Makena, Kenya’s 800m bronze medallist Margaret Nyairera Wambui also took the blood tests, which showed high levels of testosterone, according to Imali. The 23-year-old Wambui competed in the Doha Diamond League 800m, finishing sixth behind Semenya. It was the last race for both runners before the IAAF rules came into force. 

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