Tuesday 20 March 2018

Why is Caster Semenya at centre of controversy again and what is hyperandrogenism?

Caster Semenya
Caster Semenya

Ben Rumsby

The world is talking about South Africa Caster Semenya again.

Why is Caster Semenya at the centre of controversy?

Even before she stormed to gold in the 2009 World Championships 800m as an 18-year-old, Semenya’s gender was being called into question. News she had been forced to take a gender test leaked out before the championships and the controversy has continued to dog her ever since.

What is hyperandrogenism?

A condition where levels of testosterone are elevated above an arbitrary level in women, giving them characteristics found far more commonly in men. Semenya was deemed to have such elevated levels by the International Association of Athletics Federations.

How much of an advantage does it give her?

A significant one. Semenya ran the 22nd fastest 800m of all time last month, and the fastest for more than eight years, when she clocked one minute, 55.33 seconds at the Diamond League meeting in Monaco. No other female athlete has broken 1min 56sec for almost five years.

Are other athletes calling for her to be excluded?

Seemingly not openly. But opinion appears divided within the athletics community as to whether her natural advantage should be overlooked or action should be taken to mitigate against it, as the IAAF tried to do by effectively forcing her to take testosterone suppressants.

Do other competitors at the Olympics have the same condition?

India sprinter Dutee Chand won a ruling at the Court of Arbitration for Sport last year that overturned the IAAF’s ruling after being blocked from taking part in international events in 2014 by her national athletics federation. At least one other athlete in Rio is believed to have the same condition.

What is the position of the authorities?

The IAAF is preparing to challenge the CAS ruling, admitting the issue is highly sensitive but insisting something had to be done to nullify Semenya’s advantage.


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