in an open letter to the sports federation this week, the UN said the efforts to force athletes to regulate testosterone levels is “unjustifiable” and passed a resolution calling on the international community to “refrain from developing and enforcing policies and practices that force, coerce or otherwise pressure women and girl athletes into undergoing unnecessary, humiliating and harmful medical procedures.”
Two-time Olympic and triple world champion over 800 metres, Caster Semenya is appealing against a new rule proposed by the IAAF which, if upheld, would force her to either take medication to reduce her testosterone levels or compete against men.
The 28-year-old has hyperandrogenism, meaning her body produces unusually high levels of testosterone, which the IAAF has consistently argued gives her an unfair advantage over her rivals.
Because her hormone levels are naturally occurring, however, the governing body’s proposed rule has caused significant controversy, with several women’s and human rights groups backing her case.
The South African distance runner’s rare medical condition caused the IAAF to request athletes be seperated in classes depending on their DSD (differences of sexual development). Semenya- and other "hyperandrogenic" athletes- should medically reduce their blood testosterone level or compete against men in order to “level the playing field,” IAAF officials said.
In October last year, three human rights experts from the UN wrote an open letter to the IAAF calling its proposed female classification rule "unjustifiable" and now the UN’s Human Rights Council has passed a resolution which further criticises the body.
The resolution, co-sponsored by Eswatini (formerly known as Swaziland), Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Burundi, India, Iceland and Canada, is “aimed at eliminating discrimination against women and girls in sport, giving significant global weight from a human rights perspective to Caster Semenya’s case.”
South Africa’s minister of international relations and cooperation, Lindiwe Sisulu, said, “The international campaign to preserve Caster’s right to participate in global sports is a struggle for all women in the world against discrimination, sexism, and patriarchy.”
Semanya's attorneys say the athlete is hopeful that the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) will declare the IAAF case "invalid" when it reviews the proposlas in April.
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