Friday 24 May 2019

'I'm here for the people who love me' - Caster Semenya wins two days after losing appeal against testosterone rules

South Africa's Caster Semenya celebrates after winning the women's 800m in Doha. REUTERS/Ibraheem Al Omari
South Africa's Caster Semenya celebrates after winning the women's 800m in Doha. REUTERS/Ibraheem Al Omari Newsdesk

Caster Semenya provided the ideal response to being told she has to take hormone-suppressing drugs or change events if she wants to continue competing as a woman by running the fastest time in the world this year to win the 800 metres in the opening Diamond League meeting of the season in Doha.

Two days after the legal judgement which will force her to take medication to reduce her testosterone levels if she wants to be eligible to defend her world title later this year, the two-time Olympic champion did what she does best - powered clear of the field to claim a comprehensive victory in what could prove the last international 800m race of her career.

The South African, who raised a clenched fist in the air when she was introduced to the crowd, sat on the shoulder of the pacemaker early on before bursting away to cross the line in one minute 54.98 seconds, a meeting record.

There appeared to be little emotion at the finish, just a thumbs-up for the cameras.

The 28-year-old is the dominant force in women's 800m running - a five-time global champion, the fourth fastest in history over the distance and the world number one in each of the last three seasons - but the Court of Arbitration for Sport's decision to rule the controversial testosterone limit for female runners introduced by athletics' world governing body the IAAF "necessary", even if it is "discriminatory", is set to have major ramifications on the rest of her career.

The stark choice facing Semenya now is: start taking hormone suppressants - the IAAF says she and other athletes with differences of sex development have until May 8 to reduce their testosterone levels to five nanomoles/Litre of blood serum - change events, given all events from the 400m to the mile are affected by the IAAF's new regulations, or retire.

And it is not just a choice facing her.

Burundian Francine Niyonsaba, who finished second to Semenya on Friday night in 1min 57.75secs, as she did at the 2016 Olympics and 2017 World Championships, will also be affected by the rules.

But whatever the future holds, Semenya's run was certainly a statement to her detractors. A time faster than she ran to win any of her two Olympic or three world titles.

Semenya had hinted at retirement on social media in the wake of the CAS judgement but emphatically ruled that out after the race.

"I'm never going anywhere," she was quoted as telling the BBC.

"At the end of the day, it's all about believing.

"It's up to God. God has decided my career and he will end my career, so no human can stop me from running."

Semenya added: "I understand there's been a lot of controversy, but that does not control anything.

"Actions speak louder than words. When you're a great champion you always deliver.

"With me, life has been simple. I'm just here to deliver for the people who love and support me.

"I'm enjoying each and every moment of my life, maybe because I have the love I need from my people."

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