Caster Semenya is a South African middle distance runner and Olympic gold winner who has naturally higher levels of testosterone than the typical range for women. Speculation is that Semenya may be intersex.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport has now ruled that in order to continue competing, Semenya will have to take hormones that lower her natural testosterone levels and take blood tests to show that she is doing so. That ruling supports an International Association of Athletics Federation ruling that specifically targets athletes like Semenya. The position of IAAF and CAS is acknowledged to be discriminatory, but the belief is that this discrimination is necessary to safeguard the integrity of women’s sports.
This is a tough one, and it has split the world of women’s athletics. Billie Jean King, Abby Wambach, and Martina Navratilova support Semenya’s position. So does Madeleine Pape, an Australian runner who lost to Semenya in competition. British long distance runner Paula Radcliffe supports IAAF and CAS.
I think blanket rules to cover relatively rare situations are generally a bad idea. I also think it’s ironic that governing bodies who work hard to control performance enhancing drugs in elite competition are now taking the position that performance-limiting drugs must be used in this case. If I were Semenya, I wouldn’t take hormone treatments that could have an uncertain impact on my overall health for the sole purpose of making me other than I am and satisfying sports officials.
Asking her to do something quite unreasonable, I say.