President Cyril Ramaphosa has thrown his weight behind national LGBTQ hero Caster Semenya in her legal battle against the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).
The Olympic champion is challenging recent regulations by the IAAF that would force her to artificially reduce her natural testosterone levels.
On Tuesday, Ramaphosa tweeted to Semenya: “Champion. Beacon of hope. My daughter. This is only to remind you of your greatness; because you constantly remind us that nothing beats the enduring power of the human spirit.”
The South African president added: “You may run alone on the track, but know now that you run with 57 million & more.”
Ramaphosa has often spoken out in support of LGBTQ+ equality. In October last year, he stated that the “violation of the rights and equal worth of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex people demeans our common humanity as South Africans.”
Caster’s case against the IAAF policies began on Monday at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas) in Lausanne, Switzerland. The proceedings, which are meant to be confidential, are expected to continue for the rest of the week.
Under the IAAF regulations, which were issued in April last year, Semenya and other women athletes in her situation will have to use medication to artificially lower their natural testosterone levels in order to be allowed to compete against other women. If not, they will have to run against men.
The IAAF claims this is necessary to ensure a level and fair playing field for women athletes. Critics of the regulations, however, argue that the basis of what is defined as a “normal” range of testosterone for women is arbitrary and discriminatory.
Semenya believes that the rules are a violation of her human rights and are “discriminatory, irrational [and] unjustifiable”, and that she is simply competing with her natural-born talents, like any other athlete.
“Ms Semenya is unquestionably a woman,” said her lawyers in a statement. “She is a heroine and an inspiration to many people around the world. Ms Semenya is fighting for her right to run without being required to undergo unnecessary medical intervention – she is fighting to run free.”
A verdict in the case is expected to be issued by the end of March.