South African Government Vows To Continue To Fight For Semenya

South African Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa has called on all South Africans, Africans and the entire world to support Caster Semenya as it seeks to defeat injustice against women in sport, particularly African women.

Mthethwa made the call following the recent decision of a Swiss Federal Tribunal to uphold a ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) regarding the World Athletics (formerly IAAF) regulations on female athletes with differences in sexual development (DSD).

The current rules force athletes with DSD to take drugs to reduce their naturally-occurring testosterone if competing in women’s events ranging from 400 metres to a mile.

DSD athletes with naturally high levels of testosterone need to medically limit that level to less than 5 nmol/L, double the normal female range of below 2 nmol/L.

Olympic 800-metre women’s champion, Semenya had approached the Swiss Federal Tribunal in May 2019 after the CAS ruling but the tribunal has found that the requirement of subjecting certain female athletes to drug or surgical interventions as a precondition to compete does not amount to a violation of Swiss public policy.

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This ruling is another blow for the 29-year-old, who will be unable to defend her Olympic title at the postponed Tokyo 2020 unless she takes medication.

The statement from the Swiss Federal Tribunal after its decision also suggested the rules looked after the interests of female athletes.

“Based on these findings, the CAS decision cannot be challenged,” it said.

“Fairness in sport is a legitimate concern and forms a central principle of sporting competition.

It is one of the pillars on which competition is based.

“The European Court of Human Rights also attaches particular importance to the aspect of fair competition.

“In addition to this significant public interest, the CAS rightly considered the other relevant interests, namely the private interests of the female athletes running in the ‘women’ category.”

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The governing body has been criticized by human rights organizations, however, including Human Rights Watch and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The World Medical Association has also requested that doctors do not implement the World Athletics regulations, questioning the ethics of the decision.

Mthethwa described the decision as “very unfortunate and offensive to the fundamental human rights of female athletes classified hyperandrogenic.”

According to him, the regulations are not only a violation of human and women rights, but their administration is considered unethical by experts in the field of medical science.

“Both the South African government and the global sporting community always held a firm view that these regulations are a gross violation of fundamental human rights of DSD female athletes and therefore rallied behind the appeal by both Semenya and Athletics South Africa (ASA) in their legal tussle with the IAAF,” Mthethwa said in a statement.

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“We, therefore, rally behind the appeal by both Semenya and Athletics South Africa (ASA) in their legal tussle with World Athletics.

“As the Government of democratic South Africa, a country renowned for its tradition of promoting and protecting basic human rights, together with ASA, we will study the judgment and consider various options and avenues at our disposal in our collective campaign to fight this injustice.”


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