Moletje-born Double Olympic champion Caster Semenya has won a human rights court appeal over the rules governing testosterone in female athletes.

Semenya has been fighting against rules introduced in 2019 by World Athletics which regulates levels of the hormone in female athletes.

The 32-year-old lost an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in April 2019. In September 2020, Semenya then lost an appeal made to Switzerland’s Federal Supreme Court but vowed to continue to fight for the human rights of female athletes.

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She submitted an appeal to the ECHR in February 2021, saying that, in its dismissal of her appeal, Switzerland’s Federal Supreme Court failed in its obligations to uphold her human rights.

Caster Semenya wins appeal on testosterone rules
Caster Semenya

In its ruling, the ECHR said there had been a violation of the prohibition of discrimination taken together with the right to respect for private life as well as a violation of the right to an effective remedy.

“The Court found in particular that the applicant had not been afforded sufficient institutional and procedural safeguards in Switzerland to allow her to have her complaints examined effectively. Especially since her complaints concerned substantiated and credible claims of discrimination as a result of her increased testosterone level caused by differences of sex development (DSD),” said the ECHR in its ruling.

The release on the judgment said the ECHR chamber ruled with a majority decision. Four of the seven representatives finding that Semenya’s rights under Articles 13 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights had been violated. The chamber judgement is not final and can be referred to a grand chamber of the court for further consideration if a request is made.

This decision could compel world athletes to rethink their decision to force athletes with high testosterone concentrations to take medication to lower those levels.

But it is unclear if the decision will allow Semenya to compete in her favoured 800 metre event once again.


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