IAAF Trying To Police What Naturally Occurs In Semenya's Body 'Baffling'

"'Unfair' would be the understatement of the year."
Caster Semenya at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
Caster Semenya at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
Athit Perawongmetha / Reuters

The International Association of Athletics Federations' (IAAF's) attempts at policing what naturally occurs in Caster Semenya's body is "baffling", said a local gender activist.

This comes after Thursday's announcement by the IAAF of new rules for female athletes with higher testosterone levels. "Hyperandrogenic" female athletes like Semenya will have to take medication to reduce their testosterone levels if they hope to continue running in events from the 400m to the mile [1,600m]. Otherwise, they can only compete over longer distances (the 5,000m and 10,000m). This rule is expected to take effect in November.

Speaking to HuffPost, director of Transgender Intersex Africa Tebogo Nkoane said describing what the IAAF wants to do to Semenya and female athletes like her as "unfair" would be "the understatement of the year".

"Firstly, they are giving a gifted female athlete an ultimatum about something that naturally occurs in her body. Something she has no control over."

"Secondly, they are [making a choice for a woman] about what to do with her body. The nerve! Caster is not doing the choosing here. She has no agency with these new rules."

"She already fought a fair, hard, even humiliating battle before the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which suspended the IAAF's hyperandrogenism regulations — and now they want to take her back [to that situation]," added Nkoane.

He believes this borders on discrimination. "[The IAAF] only want this for certain running events — [those] that Caster runs in. So what would've happened if she was not a double Olympic champion? What would have happened if she was not black? You can't help but wonder about these things."

Nkoane said another question worth pondering is whether or not this would've been done to a man with naturally elevated levels of testosterone — a question some have already asked on social media.

Nkoane believes this also speaks to the general policing of women's bodies. "It seems to us like women in sport are not well-respected — or at least in this case, women who appear 'different' in sport. It's grossly unfair, disrespectful and unconstitutional."

"No body is shameful," said Nkoane, "no matter how it was born or how it chooses to express itself."