Despite a new blow to her legal bid to be allowed to run competitively just as she is, Caster Semenya says that she won’t back down.
The Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland has rejected the South African Olympic gold medalist’s appeal to set aside the 2019 ruling against her by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
The CAS ruling had upheld controversial regulations issued by the International Association of Athletics Federations IAAF, which is now called World Athletics.
These regulations block Semenya from defending her 800m gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics next year or to complete in any 400m to 1500m events unless she undergoes treatment to reduce her natural levels of testosterone.
“I am very disappointed by this ruling, but refuse to let World Athletics drug me or stop me from being who I am,” said Semenya. “Excluding female athletes or endangering our health solely because of our natural abilities puts World Athletics on the wrong side of history.”
She asserted that she “will continue to fight for the human rights of female athletes, both on the track and off the track, until we can all run free the way we were born. I know what is right and will do all I can to protect basic human rights, for young girls everywhere.”
In a post on Twitter on Wednesday, Semenya wrote to her fans: “Chills my people. A man can change the rules but the very same man can not rule my life. What I’m saying is that I might have failed against them the truth is that I have won this battle long ago. Go back to my achievements then you will understand. Doors might be closed not locked.”
The Swiss Supreme Court found that World Athletics’ requirement of subjecting certain female athletes to drug or surgical interventions as a precondition to compete in women’s 400m to 1500m events does not amount to a violation of Swiss public policy.
“This decision is a call to action – as a society, we cannot allow a sports federation to override the most fundamental of human rights,” said Dorothee Schramm, a partner with Sidley Austin LLP and the lawyer who led Semenya’s appeal.
Semenya is considering all of her options internationally and domestically, with her lawyers noting that the World Medical Association (WMA) has called on physicians around the world to take no part in implementing the World Athletics regulations and has demanded their immediate withdrawal.
Greg Nott, a partner with Norton Rose who has been Semenya’s advisor for over a decade commented: “Nelson Mandela taught us that sport has the power to inspire and unite people. The World Athletics regulations upheld by the Swiss judgment do neither.
“This setback will not be the end of Semenya’s story. She has an amazing team of advisors and lawyers behind her from countries around the world, including South Africa, Canada, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, India, the United States and the European Union. The international team is considering the judgment and the options to challenge the findings in European and domestics courts. We stand with Caster. We stand united, and united we are strong.”
The IAAF rules have also been condemned by international human rights groups, the UN Human Rights Council, Athletics South Africa and the South African government.