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S/African activists join Semenya’s battle against IAAF ban

South African activists, despondent over a recent Swiss Supreme Court ruling to uphold a lower court ban of Olympian Caster Semenya from competing on the world stage, have vowed to solicit the help of the United Nations and the African Union to quash the decision.The International Association of Athletics Federations, led by its president Sebastian Coe, banned Semenya from running her 800-metre specialty unless she took hormone drugs to slow down her running – a natural ability due to her status as an athlete with differences of sexual development (DSD).

Following the 8 September decision by the Swiss Supreme Court to uphold the Swiss Court of Arbitration for Sport’s ban against her running, Semenya has vowed to never take the drugs to allow her to take part in athletics.

Due to this, activists under the South African Human Rights Commission and the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) said on Friday that they plan to petition the UN and AU over the issue, claiming the regulations directed against Semenya constituted “gross human rights violations”.

“Caster and other women cannot be subjected to these horrible acts,” CGE spokesman Javu Baloyi said.

The activists questioned why other athletes were not penalised for natural advantages such as “strong lung capacity” or for having long legs like retired Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, which gave him high natural advantage over other athletes in running races.

“Usain Bolt — look at his height,” Baloyi said. “Should we then reduce his height and long legs so that he can compete equally with other athletes?”

The IAAF in 2018 banned Semenya and other DSD athletes from races between 400 metres and a mile unless they took testosterone-reducing drugs.

Ironically, the very IAAF does not allow athletes to take enhancing drugs to help themselves run faster, as Russian athletes can attest to this after being banned from world athletics for doing this.

According to Baloyi, by appealing to the UN and the AU, the gender commission hoped IAAF’s “discriminatory, unethical” rule targeted against Semenya would be scrapped from the federation’s discriminatory regulations.


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Published on 28.04.2020

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