Women want 'offending' rule removed

Unfair: Semenya unsuccessfully challenged the regulation PIC: TELEGRAPH
Unfair: Semenya unsuccessfully challenged the regulation PIC: TELEGRAPH

International women organisations are challenging the athletics body, World Athletics over the Female Classification (Athlete with Differences of Sexual Development) regulations.

The rule applies to events from 400m to the mile, including 400m, hurdles races, 800m, 1500m, one-mile races and combined events over the same distances. The regulations require any athlete who has a Difference of Sexual Development (DSD), with levels of circulating testosterone (in serum) at five (5) nmol/L or above and who are androgen-sensitive should meet certain conditions in order to be eligible to compete.

The rules require that such athletes must be recognised at law either as female or as intersex (or equivalent), must reduce their blood testosterone level to below five (5) nmol/L for a continuous period of at least six months and must maintain the blood testosterone level below five (5) nmol/L continuously (whether she competes or does not compete) for so long as she wishes to remain eligible.

These new regulations, approved by the World Athletics Council, came into effect in November 2018. They replace the previous regulations governing the eligibility of females with hyperandrogenism to compete in women's competition, which no longer apply anywhere in the sport. Africa representative in the International Working Group (IWG) board, Game Mothibi said some of the associations that have signed a petition against the regulations are Women Sport International, IWG, and International Association for Physical Education for girls and women in sport. “World Athletics passed a rule on DSD that prevented some women to compete in sport or their preferred races. The rule lacked scientific evidence that having high-level testosterone can increase performance,” she said.

Mothibi said even after commissioning a study in 2017, four years later the authors admitted that their results do not suggest any cause, making the conclusions by World Athletics wrong. “This, however, borders on the integrity of the women in sport and also on their rights to sport. We, therefore, have written to World Athletics to remove the regulations with immediate effect and also called on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and other international federations to use their influence and leadership to have the regulations removed immediately,” Mothibi said.

She explained that after the Caster Semenya case, other athletes were affected. Mothibi said athletes such as Francine Niyosonba, Margaret Wambui, Aminatou Senyi and Semenya were barred from competing at the Olympics and other competitions citing the DSD rule. “We also saw the Namibian duo Christine Mboma and Beatrice Masilingi being prevented to run their preferred 400m race. There could be more who decided not even to step out and be exposed and decided they would not even bother competing. It had also shattered dreams of upcoming girls or athletes who had wished to make a life out of the sport,” she said. In June, the Namibian teenagers, Mboma and Masilingi were prevented from running the 400m at the Olympics due to naturally occurring raised testosterone levels.

“Remember this was followed up immediately by the time IWG was held in Botswana and we sent out statements to World Athletics and we even created a session on the IWG conference programme where we invited Madelaine Pape and Dutee Chand’s lawyer, Payoshni Mitra,” she said.

Chand took World Athletics to the Court of Arbitration for Sport on the same issue in 2015. The rule was suspended and later resurfaced in 2018. Pape competed against Semenya at the 2009 World Athletics Championships. “I was sore about losing to Caster. But this decision against her is wrong. But after careful considerations, I realised that Caster cannot be punished for something natural on her,” Pape said in one of her research papers.

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