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IAAF delays testosterone rule change after Caster Semenya challenge

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The IAAF delayed implementing a rule limiting women’s testosterone levels from Nov. 1 until March due to a legal appeal from Olympic 800m champion Caster Semenya and South Africa’s track and field federation.

The IAAF expects a hearing in Semenya’s case in February with a verdict by March 26.

“The IAAF remains very confident of the legal, scientific and ethical bases for the regulations, and therefore fully expects the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to reject these challenges,” the IAAF said in a press release. “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 [Athletics South Africa] 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.”

The proposed rule calls for female runners with high testosterone to reduce those levels to be allowed in international races between 400m and the mile.

Semenya, who underwent gender testing in 2009 and is expected to be affected by the rule, said in June it is “discriminatory, irrational, unjustifiable,” in her first public comments since it was announced April 26.

“I am very upset that I have been pushed into the public spotlight again. I don’t like talking about this new rule,” Semenya said in a June press release. “I just want to run naturally, the way I was born.”

IAAF president Seb Coe said the rule was “about leveling the playing field to ensure fair and meaningful competition.”

The IAAF had gender-verification testing in place until 2011, when it was replaced with a test for abnormally high levels of natural testosterone.

In July 2015, CAS suspended the IAAF’s regulation, ruling that it lacked sufficient scientific backing and was therefore unjustifiably discriminatory.

The gender-testing issue was raised in 2009, when Semenya won the world 800m title by nearly 2.5 seconds at age 18. Word leaked that track officials mandated she undergo sex testing.

Semenya was not cleared to run for 11 months and came back to earn silver at the 2011 Worlds and 2012 Olympics, while the testosterone-limiting rule was in effect, behind Russian Maria Savinova, who has since been stripped of her golds for doping.

Semenya then had a lull in performance after the London Games while the testosterone-limiting rule was still in effect. After CAS suspended the rule in 2015, Semenya peaked again in 2016, going undefeated in 800m races, twice breaking the national record and comfortably winning Olympic gold. She has won 29 straight 800m finals dating to 2015, according to Tilastopaja.org.

Semenya has never spoken publicly in detail about her situation. It has never been publicly verified that Semenya’s body naturally produces abnormally high levels of testosterone or that she ever took hormone suppressants.

Semenya is receiving the Wilma Rudolph Courage Award at the Women’s Sport Foundation’s (WSF) annual salute in New York City on Wednesday.

“Despite public pressure and scrutiny, Semenya has embraced this advocacy role with dignity and courage,” according to a WSF statement. “The Women’s Sports Foundation unequivocally supports Semenya in her challenge to a discriminatory rule that if passed, will place women’s bodies, their well-being, livelihood, identity and privacy at imminent risk.

“It is the position of the Women’s Sports Foundation that eligibility standards for women’s sports that require female athletes to demonstrate particular hormone levels perpetuate the historical discrimination that has been prevalent in women’s sports for decades. We are confident that, when presented with the facts, the Court of Arbitration for Sport will uphold the human rights of all athletes.”

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Dan Hicks, Rowdy Gaines call backyard pool swim race

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Dan Hicks and Rowdy Gaines covered swimming together at the last six Olympics, including every one of Michael Phelps‘ finals, but they’ve never called a “race” quite like this.

“We heard you were looking for something to commentate during the down time….might this short short short course 100 IM help?” tweeted Cathleen Pruden, posting a video of younger sister Mary Pruden, a sophomore swimmer at Columbia University, taking individual medley strokes in what appeared to be an inflatable backyard pool.

“Hang on,” Gaines replied. “This race of the century deserves the right call. @DanHicksNBC and I are working some magic!”

Later, Hicks posted a revised video dubbed with commentary from he and Gaines.

They became the latest commentators to go beyond the booth to post calls on social media while sports are halted due to the coronavirus pandemic.

NBC Sports hockey voice Doc Emrick (who has also called Olympic hockey and water polo) did play-by-play of a windshield wiper installation.

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Which athletes are qualified for the U.S. Olympic team?

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Soon after Tokyo Olympic qualifying events began getting postponed, the International Olympic Committee announced that all quota places already allocated to National Olympic Committees and athletes will remain with those NOCs and athletes.

The IOC repeated that position over the last week, after the Tokyo Games were postponed (now to open July 23, 2021). What does that mean for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee?

Well, 76 athletes qualified for the U.S. Olympic team before the Olympic postponement was announced. That full list is here.

Those 76 athletes can be separated into two categories.

  • Athletes who earned Olympic spots BY NAME via International Federation (i.e. International Surfing Association or International Aquatics Federation) selection procedures.
  • Athletes named to the U.S. Olympic team by their national governing body (i.e. USA Swimming or USA Track and Field) and confirmed by the USOPC using NGB selection procedures after the NGB earned a quota spot.

When the IOC says “all quota places already allocated to National Olympic Committees and athletes will remain with those NOCs and athletes,” it means just that. USA Softball still has 15 athlete quota spots from qualifying a full team via international results. Surfer Kolohe Andino still has his Olympic spot from qualifying BY NAME via the International Surfing Association selection procedures route.

USA Softball named its 15-player Olympic roster last fall. Those 15 athletes did not earn Olympic quota spots for themselves. Unlike Andino (and 13 other American qualifiers across all sports), the 15 softball players had to be nominated by USA Softball and confirmed by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee.

Unless and until the USOPC confirms that any of those other 62 athletes remain qualified, for now the list of U.S. Olympic qualifiers is these 14 who qualified BY NAME:

Karate (1)
Sakura Kokumai

Modern Pentathlon (2)
Samantha Achterberg
Amro Elgeziry

Swimming (3)
Haley Anderson
Ashley Twichell
Jordan Wilimovsky

Sport Climbing (4)
Kyra Condie
Brooke Raboutou
Nathaniel Coleman
Colin Duffy

Surfing (4)
Caroline Marks
Carissa Moore
Kolohe Andino
John John Florence

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MORE: Qualified athletes go into limbo with Tokyo postponement