The Swiss Federal Supreme Court Reverses its Temporary Ruling on Caster Semenya
The International Association of Athletics Federations (the IAAF) issued new DSD (Differences in Sexual Development) Regulations in April 2018. They govern eight races from distances of 400 metres to one mile and exclusively cover female athletes with “46 XY DSD”, that is, women like Caster Semenya with XY chromosomes. Women with “46 XY DSD” are considered to have testosterone levels well into the male range. The DSD Regulations require that female athletes with “46 XY DSD” maintain their testosterone level permanently below a specified level for as long as they wish to compete in an IAAF-sanctioned races.
On May 31, 2019, the Swiss Federal Supreme Court (the Court) ordered the IAAF to put the DSD regulation on hold until the Court made a final decision. This allowed Semenya to continue running in her natural state. However, after hearing arguments from the IAAF and Semenya’s lawyers, the Court reversed its May ruling on July 29, 2019 and decided, for the time being, that the DSD Regulations are again applicable to Caster Semenya. The Court found that the arguments made by Semenya’s lawyers did not meet the threshold for an interim suspension of the DSD Rugulation. The Court has not yet reached a final decision on the appeal itself.
It is not known when the Court will render its final ruling but it won’t arrive in time for Semenya to compete in the 800-metre race at the world championships, which start at the end of September in Doha. She previously won the gold medal in the 800 metres at the last two Olympics, and at the world championships in 2009, 2011, and 2017. She was favoured to win the world championships in September and Olympic gold in 2020 but her future now remains in doubt. Semenya remains committed to keeping her natural body chemistry. If the Court rules against her in its final ruling, Semenya will have to consider shifting to races that fall outside the 400 metres to one mile range covered by the DSD Regulation.