Olympic gold medalist Caster Semenya, renowned for her dominance in the 800 meters, refuses to let her unique biological traits define her womanhood. In her ongoing confrontation with athletic authorities, Semenya boldly declares, ‘I won’t be ashamed because I am different’ and pledges to ‘fight for what is right’ in Athletics.
Semenya, a South African runner legally identified as female at birth, faces challenges due to her higher natural production of testosterone—a condition she has embraced. In 2018, World Athletics implemented rules requiring athletes with differences in sexual development (DSD), including Semenya, to take hormone-suppressing medication for distances between 400m and a mile. Unyielding, Semenya chose not to comply, resulting in her exclusion from her favored 800 meters.
Her battle extends beyond personal ambitions, as Semenya emphasizes the broader implications for future generations. ‘It’s no longer about me fighting to compete; it is about fighting for what is right,’ she affirms, highlighting the impact of such rulings on young athletes.
Semenya’s resilience gained significant legal validation in July when the European Court of Human Rights ruled in her favor, citing discrimination in her case. Despite this symbolic win, World Athletics, supported by Swiss authorities, intends to contest the ruling in the ECHR’s Grand Chamber, underscoring the complexity of the issue.
The athlete’s focus transcends competition; she foregoes next year’s Olympics to concentrate on advocating for ‘justice, inclusivity, and diversity’ within women’s sports. Semenya challenges the existing narrative, asserting, ‘We as women have to take charge of our own bodies’ and calls for autonomy in determining women’s athletic standards.
Responding to World Athletics’ defense of its regulations, Semenya argues, ‘My testosterone is high, not active because I’m not a man. I believe that I have a right, as any other woman, to compete as a woman.’
‘Being born with internal testicles doesn’t make me less of a woman’: Olympic champion Caster Semenya says ‘I won’t be ashamed because I am different’
While Semenya’s legal victories are symbolic, they don’t directly challenge World Athletics’ regulations.
Semenya is intersex and she’s not the only one. Four other professional runners are facing the same caveat.
Caster Semenya, Margaret Wambui, Francine Niyonsaba, and Aminatou Seyni barred from preferred Olympic events due to natural testosterone levels. All four are intersex women.
World Athletics implemented hormone regulations in 2018, requiring intersex women to lower testosterone levels to compete.
Regulations prohibit intersex runners from 400m to a mile unless they undergo medication or surgery.
Caster Semenya engaged in a legal battle with World Athletics, faced health issues with hormonal treatment.
Margaret Wambui suggests introducing a third category for athletes with high testosterone.
Francine Niyonsaba barred from 800m, qualified for the 10,000m at the 2021 Olympics.
Aminatou Seyni, ranked fifth globally in the 400m, barred from the event, will run the 200m.
Being intersex is nothing to be ashamed of, experts at medical centers estimate a child is born so noticeably atypical in terms of genitalia that a specialist in sex differentiation is called in, the number comes out to about 1 in 1500 to 1 in 2000 births [0.07–0.05%]. This is an actual plight. But to think that having internal testees gives you no advantage over biological women is borderline insane.