The IAAF announced Tuesday it had agreed to postpone by five months the implementation of controversial new rules on high testosterone levels in female athletes to avoid further delay in proceedings brought by South African track star Caster Semenya challenging their legality.
World track and field’s governing body had scheduled November 1 as the date they wanted to introduce the rules that have split opinion: many female athletes welcome the new rules as a way to create a fairer playing field while others such as Semenya argue it is discriminatory.
“A contested application to stay the implementation of the DSD regulations would have caused additional delay and created new uncertainty for athletes seeking to compete in the women’s category,” the IAAF said in a statement.
Semenya, with the backing of the South African athletics federation (ASA), has turned to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in her challenge of IAAF rules. The double Olympic 800m champion (2012, 2016) and three-time world champion (2009, 2011, 2017) is potentially the highest-profile female athlete that would be affected by such regulations.
Classified as “hyper-androgynous” by the IAAF, athletes like Semenya would have to chemically lower their testosterone levels to be able to compete, something the 800m runner says is in violation of the IAAF’s constitution and the Olympic Charter.
The IAAF insisted Tuesday, however, that it remained “very confident of the legal, scientific, and ethical bases for the regulations, and therefore fully expects the Court of Arbitration for Sport to reject these challenges”.
“However, the IAAF also understands that all affected athletes need certainty on the point as soon as possible. Therefore, in exchange for Ms Semenya and the ASA agreeing to an expedited timetable, the IAAF has agreed not to enforce the regulations against any athlete unless and until they are upheld in the CAS award, which is expected on or before 26 March 2019.”
IAAF president Sebastian Coe added: “Prolonging the uncertainty for athletes looking to compete in these distances next year and beyond is unfair and so we have reached a compromise with the claimants.
“We have agreed not to enforce the regulations against any athlete until the contested regulations are upheld. In exchange, they have agreed not to prolong the process. All athletes need this situation resolved as soon as possible.”