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South Africa sports minister to back Semenya at hearing

Semenya arrived at CAS for the start of the hearing on Monday © AFP/File / Harold CUNNINGHAM

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Feb 20South Africa’s Sports Minister Tokozile Xasa said Wednesday she will fly to Switzerland to support Caster Semenya at a landmark hearing on proposed rules to restrict female athletes’ testosterone levels.

The Olympic champion is appearing before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne to challenge rules proposed by track and field’s governing body that would force her to lower her testosterone.

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) says it is introducing the rules to create a “level playing field” for other female athletes.

Xasa, who leaves on Wednesday evening, will be alongside Semenya to hear deliberations between the IAAF and Athletics South Africa, until the end of the hearings on Friday.

“Upon my arrival in Switzerland, my responsibility will be to convey the message of support from President Cyril Ramaphosa and members of cabinet,” the minister said in a statement.

Xasa will also speak about South Africa’s human rights stance on the issue of female classification and reclassification.

Minister in the Presidency Responsible for Women, Bathabile Dlamini, said the “archetype of the female athlete” is being “controlled by sexist regulations”.

“When it comes to female athletes, society seemingly places limits on what the female body should look like and how they should perform,” said Dlamini.

“The very archetype of the female athlete is being defined and controlled by sexist regulations.

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“Female athletes must constantly suffer emotional abuse through absorbing comments like ‘She runs like a man’.

“These preconceived notions of what the female body should look like or how female athletes should perform is deeply sexist.”

Many South Africans have thrown their weight behind Semenya in the media and online.

Last week the government launched a campaign dubbed #NaturallySuperior in a bid to drum up international support for Semenya’s fight against the rules which they have labelled “discriminatory”.

Semenya won the 800 metre gold medals at both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, and also won her third world title in London two years ago.

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