Friday 24 May 2019

Doha race has air of finality for Semenya

South Africa's Caster Semenya. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire
South Africa's Caster Semenya. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

Ben Bloom

Caster Semenya will run what could be the final 800m race of her career without taking hormone-suppressing medication when she lines up for the Doha Diamond League today.

The South African was not on initial start lists but was added yesterday, a day after the Court of Arbitration for Sport sided with athletics' governing body to keep strict limitations on the amount of testosterone women can possess when competing in track events from 400m to the mile.

Semenya is considering appealing that decision but she - and any other athlete with Differences of Sexual Development (DSD) - only has until Monday to prove her testosterone is at the required level or she will not be allowed to compete at Diamond League meetings or defend her world title this year.

With the Doha meeting being held just two days after the CAS verdict was announced, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) said athletes already registered to compete would be allowed to do so "without reducing their testosterone level".

Whether it will be Semenya's last appearance over 800m depends on her choosing whether to take the hormone medication. Another option is to step up to 5,000m - a distance not covered by testosterone regulations - although she appeared to raise the prospect of leaving athletics altogether when she tweeted yesterday: "Knowing when to walk away is wisdom. Being able to is courage. Walking away with your head held high is dignity."

Sebastian Coe, the IAAF president, was reluctant to speak about the issue, beyond expressing his pleasure at the CAS decision.

"Athletics has two classifications: it has age and gender," he said. "We are fiercely protective about both."

Semenya will be joined in the Doha race by her nearest challenger, Burundi's Francine Niyonsaba, who last month confirmed she was also affected by the hormone regulations. Britain's Lynsey Sharp also features. Sharp has been vilified since commenting in 2016 that she felt like she was competing in a different race to the likes of Semenya and Niyonsaba.

Semenya's lawyer confirmed yesterday that they were still "considering" their position over a potential appeal as experts speculated that she could take her case to the European Court of Human Rights.

Dr Seema Patel, a gender discrimination expert at Nottingham Law School, said Semenya was in "relatively uncharted territory in terms of a discrimination in sport case". She warned that the skater Claudia Pechstein and sporting association federation FNASS had recently failed to overturn governing body verdicts at the ECHR. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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