Caster Semenya could be forced to take testosterone medication after study finds significant advantage
Caster Semenya and other female athletes with naturally high levels of testosterone may be forced to return to taking suppressant medication after a new study found they could have a competitive advantage of up to 4.5 per cent over their rivals.
The double Olympic 800m champion was one of a number of women taking testosterone lowering medication until 2015 when the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) suspended a rule that enforced a limit on female athletes’ naturally occurring levels.
The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) was given two years to respond to that decision and last night published a new report that they believe proves the unfair advantage of high natural levels of testosterone.
The study, funded by the IAAF and World Anti-Doping Agency, and published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, analysed more than 2,100 androgen samples from athletes participating at the 2011 and 2013 World Championships.
It found females with higher testosterone levels received a significant advantage over athletes with lower levels, with notable increases in 400m (2.7 per cent), 400m hurdles (2.8 per cent), 800m (1.8 per cent), hammer throw (4.5 per cent and pole vault (2.9 per cent).
Stephane Bermon, one of the study’s authors, said: “Our starting position is to defend, protect and promote fair female competition.
“If, as the study shows, in certain events female athletes with higher testosterone levels can have a competitive advantage of between 1.8-4.5 per cent over female athletes with lower testosterone levels, imagine the magnitude of the advantage for female athletes with testosterone levels in the normal male range.
“This study is one part of the evidence the IAAF will be submitting to CAS regarding the degree of performance advantage that hyperandrogenic female athletes enjoy over female athletes with normal testosterone levels.
“We continue to gather more data and research on our journey to providing a fair and level playing field for females in our sport.”
The findings of the latest study will not affect this year's London World Championships, where Semenya is bidding for a third 800m title, with any potential change taking place after this season has concluded.
The IAAF’s original rule on restricting testosterone levels had been in place since 2011, but was suspended after a legal challenge from Indian sprinter Dutee Chand.
The IAAF said it would have no further comment until the case is concluded, with a CAS hearing due to be heard later this month.