Women’s 800m champion Caster Semenya has arrived at the Court of Arbitration for Sport to fight proposed rules that would force her to lower her testosterone levels.
The 28-year-old South African, who has been dogged by questions about her gender, was seen giving a peace sign ahead of the first day of her landmark hearing in Lausanne, Switzerland on Monday morning.
Her court challenge is set to last five days with a judgement expected at the end of March.
The South African government has said the rules proposed by track and field’s governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations, specifically target Semenya and has called them a ‘gross violation’ of her human rights.
Controversial rules would force so-called ‘hyperandrogenic’ athletes or those with ‘differences of sexual development’ to take drugs to lower testosterone levels below a prescribed amount if they wish to compete.
The rules were to have been introduced last November but have been put on hold pending this week’s hearings at the Lausanne-based CAS which Semenya is expected to attend.
South African government officials have called the proposals ‘discriminatory’ and say that ‘women’s bodies, their wellbeing, their ability to earn a livelihood, their very identity, their privacy and sense of safety and belonging in the world, are being questioned.’
When it was reported last week that the IAAF would argue that Semenya should be classified as a biological male — a claim later denied by the IAAF — she hit back, saying she was ‘unquestionably a woman’.
In response to the report, the IAAF — stressing it was referring in general terms, not to Semenya in particular — denied it intended to classify any DSD athlete as male.
But in a statement, it added, ‘If a DSD athlete has testes and male levels of testosterone, they get the same increases in bone and muscle size and strength and increases in haemoglobin that a male gets when they go through puberty, which is what gives men such a performance advantage over women.
‘Therefore, to preserve fair competition in the female category, it is necessary to require DSD athletes to reduce their testosterone down to female levels before they compete at international level.’
On Monday morning, Semenya’s legal team hit out at the IAAF for disclosing its expert witnesses, claiming this represented a breach of a confidentiality agreement and an attempt to ‘influence public opinion’.
Semenya has now been granted permission to disclose the experts who are testifying in support of her case. This will be done on Tuesday (today), her lawyers added in a statement.