Caster Semenya Barred From 800 Meters at World Championships

Caster Semenya of South Africa, two-time Olympic champion at 800 meters, will not be eligible to run her signature event at this year’s world track and field championships after the latest legal ruling in an ongoing, highly charged case about testosterone levels and the restrictions on intersex athletes to compete in certain women’s events.

A Swiss court has reversed a June ruling that had allowed Semenya, 28, to run her signature race earlier this summer.

“I am very disappointed to be kept from defending my hard-earned title,” Semenya said Tuesday, “but this will not deter me from continuing my fight for the human rights of all the female athletes concerned.”

Semenya’s lawyers said the South African star would continue to fight for her ability to race.

Track’s governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations, has sought to limit testosterone levels for some female athletes in certain events, arguing that those with higher testosterone gain an unfair advantage. Semenya would be allowed to continue competing if her levels were lowered by hormone therapy, but she has refused to undergo it.

The I.A.A.F. said its rule applied to athletes who have an X and a Y chromosome, the standard male pattern, and therefore testosterone in the male range.

In May, the I.A.A.F. won backing for its position in the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The court said limiting testosterone limits was discriminatory but necessary to achieve a level playing field in women’s track. That ruling was overturned by the Swiss court in June.

The latest ruling by the Swiss Federal Tribunal reverses that yet again. It prevents Semenya from racing at distances from 400 meters to a mile, including her preferred distance, the 800 meters. The I.A.A.F. has said she can run longer or shorter races.

Semenya has always identified as female. She won the 800 meters at the last two Olympics and has three world titles in the event, including the last running in 2017.

She has been in good form this year as well, winning Diamond League races in Doha, Qatar, in May and Stanford, Calif., in June.

The world championships are scheduled to be run in Doha starting in late September.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

Victor Mather covers every sport, no matter how small.  

Jeré Longman is a sports reporter and a best-selling author. He covers a variety of international sports, primarily Olympic ones. He has worked at The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Dallas Times Herald and The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss.

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