IAAF criticized for apparently discriminating against South African olympian Caster Semenya with new rules for races above 400 metres

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), led by Lord Sebastien Coe, announced its new regulations, last week, which will ban athletes such as Caster Semenya from competing in any race between 400 metres and a mile unless they undergo medical treatment to reduce their testosterone levels down to an “acceptable” range for women. 

Semenya, 27, is a double Olympic champion over 800m and recently made history at the recent Commonwealth Games held on Australia’s Gold Coast by winning gold medals in the 800m and 1500m races, and setting a new 1500m record of 4:00.71. The athlete has hyperandrogenism, a condition where the body produces more testosterone than would be usual which the IAAF argues provides her an unfair advantage over other female athletes.

The IAAF has come under fire for its decision, with many condemning its apparent discrimination considering the natural talents of athletes across the board—from 7-foot basketball players who almost reach the hoops to those with longer legs who are still allowed to partake in jumping games—contribute to their success.

Semenya has been under intense scrutiny throughout her career prime because of her condition (hyperandrogenism), and will almost certainly be affected by the medication required to reduce testosterone levels. Her options are to make a legal challenge to the rules, take the medication, or move to longer distances.

Semenya at the Commonwealth Games, Australia.

Sportsmail revealed earlier this week that the IAAF will bring in controversial new rules for female athletes with “Differences of Sexual Development” competing in all distances from 400 metres to the mile.

The new regulations demand that any athlete who has Differences of Sexual Development (DSD) must be recognised ‘at law as either female or intersex’ and reduce their blood testosterone level to less than five nanomoles per litre for as long as the athlete is competing.

Coe said: “As the International Federation for our sport we have a responsibility to ensure a level playing field. Like many other sports we choose to have two classifications for our competition men’s events and women’s events.

“This means we need to be clear about the competition criteria for these two categories. Our evidence and data show that testosterone, either naturally produced or artificially inserted into the body, provides significant performance advantages in female athletes.”

The rules, which will come into effect on November 1, were on Thursday compared by the ruling African National Congress party in South Africa to apartheid.

Sports and Recreation Minister Tokozile Xasa believes that Caster Semenya is being targeted by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) for her continued success on the track.

“We see this as a targeted approach by the IAAF,” she said. “This new initiative comes after she (Semenya) broke records at the Commonwealth Games.

“It is also Africans that are participating in long-distance races, therefore we view it as a target,” the minister said.

“To compound the argument, she’s also a woman, hence this becomes sexist. This should have come a long time ago, not only when she wins medals as a way to discourage her … “We are angry and we want the entire country to rally behind us. Since Africans are doing well in these races, there are now a lot of questions that are surrounding them, thus we are very disappointed.”

This week, Semenya responded to reports of the IAAF’s plans on Twitter. ‘I am 97 per cent sure you don’t like me, but I’m 100 per cent sure I don’t care,’ she said in a post.

Semenya has also had her sexuality questioned by the IAAF and undergone tests for gender traits to check whether she is female or male. The discriminatory rules, if not overturned, could force the two-time Olympic 800-meter champion to stop running middle-distance races and instead, most likely opt for longer distances.