Caster Semenya looks to Europe to set her free

Caster Semenya is far from giving up.
Caster Semenya is far from giving up.
Image: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

Caster Semenya wants the European Court of Human Rights to find that her rights under the continent’s Convention on Human Rights were violated when the Swiss federal court upheld World Athletics’ regulations on female eligibility.

A statement issued by the Johannesburg-based lawyers of the reigning Olympic 800m champion confirmed a case had been lodged before the European court‚ which sits in Strasbourg‚ France.

Semenya is prevented from competing over any distance from 400m to a mile without taking medication — or undergoing surgery — to lower her naturally occurring levels of testosterone.

She wants to be allowed to run freely.

“I hope the European court will put an end to the long-standing human rights violations by World Athletics against women athletes‚” Semenya said in the statement.

“All we ask is to be allowed to run free‚ for once and for all‚ as the strong and fearless women we are and have always been.”

Her team include Norton Rose Fulbright lawyers Gregory Nott and Patrick Bracher‚ and Paris-based Christian Dargham.

“Caster asks the court to find that Switzerland has failed in its positive obligations to protect her against the violation of her rights under the European Convention on Human Rights as a result of World Athletics’ continuing discriminatory attempts to restrict the ability of certain women to participate in female athletics competitions‚” read the statement.

“Caster’s application continues her challenge to the demeaning and intrusive regulations. implemented by World Athletics in 2018 which prohibit some women athletes with naturally higher levels of testosterone from participating in international competitions.”

The statement said her legal team would argue that the European Court of Human Rights must act to end what they called human rights violations‚ which also affected other women athletes.

Semenya was subjected to widespread public scrutiny when she won gold at the 2009 world championships in Berlin‚ with details of her anatomy being made public as people questioned her gender.

She was allowed to compete taking testosterone suppressants‚ during which time she won silver medals at the 2011 world championships and 2012 London Olympics. Both medals were upgraded to gold after the Russian champion Mariya Savinova was disqualified for doping.

The regulations requiring her to take the medication were scrapped by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in 2015‚ and she went on to win the 800m crown at the 2016 Rio Olympics and 2017 world championships in London‚ where she also took bronze in the 1,500m.

Semenya also claimed the Commonwealth Games crown in 2018.

Since the regulations were enforced in 2019‚ Semenya has switched her focus to the 200m‚ with speculation that she could also try the 5‚000m‚ the next Olympic distance up from the 1‚500m.

Victory in Strasbourg‚ however‚ would allow her back into the 800m.

“While the timeline of the application remains to be determined by the court‚ Caster remains ever hopeful that she will soon be allowed to return to the starting line in the 800m at international competitions.” said the statement. ​


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