The governing body of track argued in court that Olympic champion Caster Semenya is “biologically male” and that is the reason she should reduce her natural testosterone to be allowed to compete in female competitions, according to documents released publicly for the first time on Tuesday and which provide new insight into a bitter legal battle.
The documents released by sport’s highest court show that Semenya responded by telling the judges that being described as biologically male “hurts more than I can put in words.” The 28-year-old South African runner said she was unable to express how insulted she felt at the IAAF “telling me that I am not a woman.”
The IAAF’s stance on Semenya and other female athletes affected by its new testosterone regulations — and Semenya’s outrage at the biological male claim — was revealed in a 163-page decision published by the Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport. It details parts of the courtroom exchanges that were held behind closed doors when Semenya challenged the IAAF over the highly contentious hormone rules in a five-day hearing in February. CAS had previously released only short excerpts of the final verdict when it was announced last month.
Tuesday’s fuller court records, which were still redacted, show the IAAF referred to the two-time Olympic and three-time world champion as one of a number of “biologically male athletes with female gender identities.”
Arguing that Semenya and others like her should be subject to its hormone limits to ensure fairness in female competitions, the IAAF stated: “There are some contexts where biology has to trump identity.”
Semenya vs. the IAAF is one of the most difficult issues sport has faced.
Semenya was legally identified as female at birth and has identified as female her whole life. But the IAAF says she is one of a number of female runners in elite athletics who have medical conditions known as “differences of sex development” and who were born with the typical male XY chromosome pattern. That gives them some male biological characteristics, male levels of the hormone testosterone after puberty, and an unfair athletic advantage over other female athletes, the IAAF says.
Semenya, who has been fighting the IAAF ever since she was embroiled in a gender verification test at the world championships 10 years ago, says the rules should be discarded and she should be allowed to run in her natural form. She disputes that she has a significant performance advantage.