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Swiss court's decision on Caster Semenya could be challenged by the SA government

South Africa's Caster Semenya wins the women's 800m.
South Africa's Caster Semenya wins the women's 800m.
Image: REUTERS/Charles Platiau

The South African government is set to decide in the coming days on whether to challenge the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland's decision not to allow Caster Semenya to run the 800m without having to take medication to reduce naturally high levels of testosterone or not.

Semenya's lawyers said in a statement on Tuesday that the Swiss court had refused to set aside the 2019 ruling by the Court of Arbitration allowing the female eligibility rules for all events from the 400m to the mile imposed by the sport’s world governing body‚ World Athletics.

The ruling means Semenya‚ the Olympic 800m champion in 2012 and 2016‚ won’t be able to defend her title at the Tokyo Games next year without taking medication. Earlier this year she competed in the 200m‚ where female athletes face no restrictions.

Sports minister Nathi Mthethwa said they would study the judgement and then decide on the next course of action to take. “As the government of democratic South Africa‚ a country renowned for its tradition of promoting and protecting basic human rights‚ together with Athletics SA (ASA)‚ we will study the judgement and consider various options and avenues at our disposal in our collective campaign to fight this injustice‚” said Mthethwa in a statement.

“We call upon all South Africans‚ Africans and the entire world to rally behind Caster in our quest to defeat injustice against Women in Sport and in particular African Women.

“The recent decision of the Swiss Federal Court to uphold a decision of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) regarding the IAAF (World Athletics) Regulations on Female Athletes with Differences of Sexual Development (DSD) is very unfortunate and offensive to the fundamental human rights of female athletes classified hyperandrogenic.

“Both the South African government and the global sporting community always held a firm view that these regulations are a gross violation of fundamental human rights of DSD female athletes and therefore rallied behind the appeal by both Caster Semenya and Athletics South Africa (ASA) in their legal tussle with the IAAF.

“In March 2019‚ during Human Rights month‚ all political parties represented in parliament of the Republic of South Africa made statements which were unanimous and unambiguous in the condemnation and classification of these Regulation as violation of both women and human rights and committed their unequivocal support for Ms Semenya.”

The statement issued on Tuesday said Semenya was considering her options‚ noting that the World Medical Association had called on doctors around the world to take no part in implementing the World Athletics regulations.

Her SA-based lawyer‚ Greg Nott‚ said this wasn’t the end of her fight‚ suggesting she could move her battle to Japan‚ the scene of the delayed 2020 Olympics.