World Athletics consistently argued that Semenya and other female athletes classified as having differences in sexual development (DSD) gain “an unfair advantage” due to their higher testosterone levels in women’s midfield events, between 400 and 1,500 meters. To do this, she established a rule that forces them to take medication to compete.
Already on May 1, 2019, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) dismissed the appeal of the South African athlete, who appealed to the ordinary courts and got them to provisionally suspend the rule; subsequently, the decision was reversed.
Now, the Swiss Federal Court announced that “the CAS decision cannot be challenged.” “Equity in sport is a legitimate concern and constitutes a central principle of sporting competition. It is one of the pillars on which competition is based,” the court ruling stated.
Furthermore, it recalls that the European Court of Human Rights attaches “special importance to the aspect of fair competition”. “In addition to this important public interest, the CAS correctly considered the other relevant interests, the private interests of female athletes competing in the ‘women’ category,” he added.
World Athletics welcomed the decision, ensuring that its regulations were always “legal and legitimate” and that they are a “fair, necessary and proportionate” means to guarantee the rights of all female athletes to participate equally. “We are very pleased that the highest court in Switzerland has joined the highest court in sport to support World Athletics’ arguments,” he said.
Now, she is committed to applying the regulations “with care and sensitivity”, to ensure that athletes with hyperandrogenism who wish to compete in the female category can do so “safely and fairly.” They will need to keep their testosterone levels below 5 nanomoles per liter of blood, half the amount they used to, for at least six months before competing at these distances.
The 800-meter Olympic champion was fighting to overturn this new set of regulations, which came into force in 2018 and which Semenya deemed “discriminatory, unnecessary, unreliable and disproportionate.”