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South African runner Caster Semenya has been banned from competing unless she takes hormone-suppressing drugs © GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File Lachlan Cunningham

Athletics

S.African rights groups join Semenya’s battle against ban

JOHANNEDBURG, South Africa, Sep 18 – South African rights groups have vowed to petition the United Nations and African Union over the latest ruling that the country’s Olympic 800-metre champion Caster Semenya cannot compete unless she takes hormone-suppressing drugs.

Switzerland’s Supreme Court last week dismissed Semenya’s appeal against a decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport on eligibility criteria for athletes with differences of sexual development (DSD).

The South African two-times gold medallist, who has elevated testosterone due to DSD, identifies as a woman and races as a woman.

But for World Athletics, women with some masculine attributes like Semenya have an unfair advantage — a position hotly contested by South African officials.

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) this week announced plans to petition the UN and AU, claiming the regulations constitute “gross human rights violations”.

“Caster and other women cannot be subjected to these horrible acts,” CGE spokesman Javu Baloyi told AFP on Friday.

He questioned why other athletes were not penalised for natural advantages such as “strong lung capacity”.

“Usain Bolt, look at his height,” Baloyi said, referring to the Jamaican sprinting champion.

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“Should we then reduce his height and long legs so that he can compete equally with other athletes?”

The international athletics governing body in 2018 banned Semenya and other DSD athletes from races between 400 metres and a mile unless they take testosterone-reducing drugs.

The 29-year-old Semenya unsuccessfully challenged the World Athletics rules before the Court of Arbitration for Sport, after which she turned to the Swiss supreme court.

She lost that latest appeal on September 8.

The gender commission is hoping the “discriminatory, unethical” rule will be scrapped.

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