Champion runner Caster Semenya, won a potentially historic legal ruling for sports on Tuesday when the European Court of Human Rights determined that the track and field rules that require her to medically lower her natural hormone levels in order to compete in important competitions constitute discrimination against her.
The two-time Olympic champion’s victory however came with a significant caveat following her two unsuccessful appeals in the sports world’s highest court in 2019, and the Swiss Supreme Court in 2020. The court decision did not invalidate the regulations, and the world track and field governing body announced shortly after its publication that the divisive testosterone regulations would “remain in place.”
While Semenya, 32, is battling for the right to run again without limitations, it might still be years before that happens, if it does at all. She probably won’t be able to compete for another gold in the 800 metres in the Paris Olympics the following year. She has won three titles at the world championships, but she is virtually probably unable to compete.
It has taken the South African athlete’s legal challenge five years to this point, and it may take just as long to have the cases rolled back via the various courts. Even while Tuesday’s verdict was significant and a win for Semenya, it simply provided the Swiss highest court with an opportunity to reevaluate its choice. If such happens, the matter can be remanded to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne. The World Athletics regulations that are currently in place might then perhaps be lifted.
Semenya’s attorneys nonetheless claimed that the victory established a crucial principle. “Caster has never given up her fight to be allowed to compete and run free,” they said in a statement.
“This important personal win for her is also a wider victory for elite athletes around the world. It means that sporting governance bodies around the world must finally recognize that human rights law and norms apply to the athletes they regulate”.