Track and field’s governing body said Thursday it plans to enforce its new rules on testosterone levels in female runners more widely than sports’ highest court is recommending, dealing another setback to Olympic sensation Caster Semenya.
On Wednesday, the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that the IAAF can force women like Semenya with unusually high testosterone to take medication to lower their levels of the muscle-building male sex hormone if they want to compete in events from 400 meters to the mile.
But the court also recommended the IAAF not enforce the rules in the 1,500 meters and the mile, saying there is not enough evidence that high testosterone gives such women a competitive edge at those distances.
Asked on Thursday whether he would heed the court’s advice, IAAF president Sebastian Coe gave a one-word answer: “No.” In a follow-up statement, the IAAF said it has enough evidence to apply the rules at the longer distances.
That decision closes off one way Semenya could have continued to compete without having to take hormone-lowering drugs.
The 28-year-old South African is a two-time Olympic gold medalist in the 800 meters and a three-time world champion. But she has also run the 1,500 meters and has had some success, winning the bronze at the 2017 world championships.
She could still run even longer distances, like the 5,000 meters, without having to take medication. But she hasn’t indicated what she will do.
Semenya has run the fourth, sixth and eighth fastest times ever in the two-lap 800-meter race. But her rivals have complained about having to compete against someone with hyperandrogenism, or unusually high levels of naturally occurring testosterone, a hormone that contributes to muscle tone and bone mass.
In Wednesday’s ruling, the court said the IAAF’s testosterone regulations are “necessary, reasonable and proportionate means” of “preserving the integrity of female athletics.”
Semenya is expected to run on Friday in Doha, Qatar, for the last time before the IAAF rules start being enforced next week. She has accused the governing body of singling her out, saying after the ruling: “For a decade the IAAF has tried to slow me down, but this has actually made me stronger.”
Indian sprinter Dutee Chand has also been publicly identified as having high testosterone. Olympic silver medalist and Semenya rival Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi has confirmed she, too, has hyperandrogenism. She will also compete in Doha.