Horrible year for Caster: Runner spent the year in court defending her rights

By Kgomotso Mokoena

Johannesburg – This is the year that South Africa’s running sensation Caster Semenya would like to forget.

Instead of spending a lot of her time exhibiting her God-given talents on the running track, the golden girl from Limpopo instead found herself more in the court rooms, fighting for her survival and for her right to participate in the sport that she loves.

The double Olympic 800-metre champion was ruled out of her favourite event last year after a rule change by World Athletics, formerly known as International Association of Athletics Federations, that said female athletes with high testosterone levels must take medication to lower it.

The ruling not only infuriated Semenya but South Africa as a whole and also gender activists throughout the world. Experts from World Athletics and some of Semenya’s competitors have said that female runners with higher levels of the hormone have an unfair advantage on the track.

Caster Semenya.

She lodged an appeal and the case was heard earlier this year. The SA government and high-profile lawyers supported and represented her in her quest to run in the Olympic Games.

“I am very disappointed by this ruling but refuse to let World Athletics drug me or stop me from being who I am”

“I am very disappointed by this ruling but refuse to let World Athletics drug me or stop me from being who I am,” Semenya was quoted in the media at the time as saying.

“I know what is right and will do all I can to protect basic human rights, for young girls everywhere.

“Excluding female athletes or endangering our health solely because of our natural abilities puts World Athletics on the wrong side of history.”

Three months ago, in September, she lost her appeal in the Switzerland’s Federal Supreme Court and she is not allowed to compete in events between 400m and 800m without taking those testosterone-reducing drugs.

The Swiss Supreme Court 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.”

Semenya is now “considering all of her options, internationally and domestically”, and has already indicated that she would focus on the shorter 200-metres sprint event, which falls outside of the regulations, at the Tokyo Olympics.

She has vowed that she will not give up until she is given her right to defend her crown in Tokyo.

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