The biggest question on the track over the past several years has been what to do about Caster Semenya, the South African 800-metre gold medallist from the 2016 Rio Olympics who self-identifies and chooses to compete as a woman while living with a condition called hyperandrogenism.
The question has now been answered by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
The CAS decided on May 1 in the Eligibility Regulations for the Female Classification for athletes with differences of sex development. The CAS found that the regulations were a necessary, reasonable and proportionate means of achieving the IAAF’s legitimate aim of preserving the integrity of female athletics in the restricted events.
Semenya is intersex. Non-official medical records indicate that she produces a significantly higher concentration of testosterone over most other women. Meanwhile the governing body of track and field, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), according to the CAS, did not in 2016 adequately prove that endogenously (naturally occurring) elevated testosterone is a performance enhancer.
The top-three women during the 2016 Rio Olympics in the 800-metre event appear to live with hyperandrogenism. The silver medallist revealed that she is in a March 2019 interview. Therefore it is likely that all three produce a much high volume of testosterone than women who are not intersex.
The Regulations will take effect on May 8, 2019 at which time all Relevant Athletes (as defined in clause 2.2(a) of the Regulations) wishing to compete in the female classification in a Restricted Event (as defined in clause 2.2(b) of the Regulations) at an International Competition need to meet the Eligibility Conditions set out in clause 2.3 of the Regulations.
The IAAF notes the three concerns expressed by the CAS Panel as to the fairness of the implementation of the Regulations. The CAS Panel in the Chand case (CAS 2014/A/3759) found that the previous iteration of the regulations was administered with ‘care and compassion’ by the IAAF, and this will not change. As the regulations expressly state, the IAAF will keep all practical matters of implementation under periodic review. Indeed, the IAAF has already addressed the CAS Panel’s first concern by mitigating the consequences of unintentional non-compliance by an athlete in a new clause 3.15.
Summary of the process for Relevant Athletes who are seeking eligibility for the IAAF World Championships in Doha 2019:
- An athlete who is a Relevant Athlete and wishes to compete in the female classification in a Restricted Event in an International Competition should immediately consult the Eligibility Regulations for the Female Classification for athletes with differences of sex development [insert link] and consult her medical team.
- Relevant Athletes have one week (7 days) from today (1 May 2019) to reduce testosterone levels to within the regulation levels so are encouraged to initiate their suppressive treatment as soon as possible. Relevant Athletes registered to compete in the IAAF Diamond League Doha on 3 May 2019 are eligible to compete at that competition (including in Restricted Events) without decreasing their testosterone level below 5 nmol/L.
- The Eligibility Conditions require a Relevant Athlete to reduce her testosterone levels to below 5 nmol/L for a continuous period of at least six months prior to competition in the female classification in a Restricted Event at an International Competition. As a special transitional provision to ensure the delay caused by the legal challenge to the Regulations does not prejudice Relevant Athletes, the IAAF will accept that Relevant Athletes who comply with the 5 nmol/L limit starting on or before 8 May 2019 will be eligible for the IAAF World Championships Doha 2019, assuming they meet the other required Eligibility Conditions.
- By 8 May 2019, Relevant Athletes seeking eligibility for the IAAF World Championships Doha 2019 must undergo a blood sampling to measure their serum testosterone level (using a mass spectrometry-based method as described in the Regulations). The testosterone concentration obtained from this blood sample must be below 5 nmol/L and remain under this value as long as the athlete is seeking eligibility to compete in the female classification in a Restricted Event at International Competition. Should the athlete show a testosterone concentration (obtained from samples collected pursuant to the athlete’s regular testing or from without notice IAAF tests) of 5 nmol/L or above before the IAAF World Championships Doha 2019, she may be declared ineligible to compete in the female classification in Restricted Events at those World Championships.
For any other possible Relevant Athlete (whose case has not previously been dealt with by the IAAF Health and Science Department) Please read the IAAF Eligibility Regulations for the Female Classification for athletes with differences of sex development and, if appropriate, get in contact with the IAAF Medical Manager (see below).
For the avoidance of doubt, no athlete will be forced to undergo any assessment and/or treatment under these Regulations. It is each athlete’s responsibility, in close consultation with her medical team, to decide whether or not to proceed with any assessment and/or treatment.
Athletes, athlete support personnel and National Federation officials with questions about the application of the new Regulations are strongly encouraged to contact the IAAF Medical Manager by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org. All Media or General Enquires should be directed to: email@example.com