Caster Semenya
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Caster Semenya loses appeal; women’s races face testosterone caps

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Caster Semenya lost her appeal against rules designed to decrease naturally high testosterone levels in some female runners. Those in events between the 400m and the mile — Semenya’s trademark events — must reduce those levels within a week to be eligible to return to competition for the world championships in five months.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) announced its ruling Wednesday, backing the IAAF, the sport’s international governing body.

“I know that the IAAF’s regulations have always targeted me specifically,” the two-time Olympic 800m champion Semenya said in a statement. “For a decade the IAAF has tried to slow me down, but this has actually made me stronger. The decision of the CAS will not hold me back.”

The IAAF, after funding a study along with the World Anti-Doping Agency, said last year that research showed the following natural testosterone levels:

Most women: .12-1.79 nanomoles per liter in blood
Normal men after puberty: 7.7-29.4 nmol/L

The new rule forces all who race the women’s 400m through the mile and who are androgen-sensitive to restrict their ratio to below five. It said women who have “a difference of sexual development” can have natural testosterone levels beyond the normal male range.

A CAS panel “found that the DSD regulations are discriminatory,” but the majority of the panel ruled “such discrimination is a necessary, reasonable and proportionate means of achieving the IAAF’s aim of preserving the integrity of female athletics” in those events.

Fifteen minutes after the news broke, Semenya’s social media accounts posted an image with the words, “Sometimes it’s better to react with no reaction.”

Runners with those abnormally high testosterone levels will be forced to take measures to reduce them to compete. The court panel, however, suggested the IAAF consider removing the restriction for the 1500m and mile “until more evidence is available” of an advantage in those events.

For now, runners have one week to meet the testosterone limit and must do so for at least six straight months before being eligible to compete. In an exception, the IAAF will allow runners to reduce the levels by this deadline and compete at the world championships starting in late September.

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.

But in 2009, word leaked that track officials mandated she undergo gender-verification testing after she won the world 800m title by 2.45 seconds at age 18 (the only time that race has been won by more than two seconds in Olympic or world championships history).

Semenya was not cleared to run for 11 months and came back to earn silver at the 2011 Worlds and 2012 Olympics (the gold medalist since stripped for doping), while a new testosterone-limiting rule was in effect that replaced gender testing. That 2011 rule limited that testosterone ratio to 10 in all female events.

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, saying it lacked sufficient scientific backing and was therefore unjustifiably discriminatory, 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.

Then last April, the IAAF announced a proposed rule calling for female runners with high testosterone to reduce those levels to a specific limit to be allowed in international races between 400m and the mile starting with the 2019 season.

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

Semenya called the rule “discriminatory, irrational, unjustifiable,” and, along with South Africa’s track and field federation, mounted a legal appeal. That brought the issue to CAS again this past winter.

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

“I just want to run naturally, the way I was born.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Joey Mantia extends U.S. medal streak at speed skating worlds; Dutch dominance returns

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Joey Mantia ensured the host U.S. finished with a medal at the world single distances championships. Ireen WüstKjeld Nuis and Jorrit Bergsma ensured the Netherlands finished atop the medal standings.

Mantia joined Shani Davis as the only U.S. men to earn individual medals at three different editions of the championships, taking bronze in the 1500m on the last day of the speed skating meet at the 2002 Olympic oval outside Salt Lake City.

Mantia won the mass start at the last two worlds in 2017 and 2019 (and finished fifth on Sunday, after the 1500m bronze).

Mantia clocked a personal best 1:42.16 in the fifth of 12 pairs of the 1500m. It held up until Nuis (1:41.66) and countryman Thomas Krol (1:41.73) in the last two pairs.

“Was starting to think that I’m so old that I can’t time trial anymore,” Mantia, a 34-year-old whose last 1500m personal best came in 2015, told media in Utah. “Maybe there’s a little bit of hope left.”

Mantia’s medal extended the U.S. streak of making the podium at every world championships this millennium — 16 straight. The single bronze is the smallest medal output since 2000.

Full results are here.

Wüst and Nuis gave the Dutch a sweep of the men’s and women’s 1500m titles, two years after they did the same at the PyeongChang Olympics. Bergsma, an Olympic and world 10,000m champion, earned his first global medal of any color — gold — in the 16-lap mass start.

The Netherlands failed to earn any golds on the first two days of the four-day competition. The dominant Dutch, who topped the medal standings at every Olympics and worlds dating to the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games, entered Sunday trailing Russia.

But Wüst began the day by clocking 1:50.92 to win the 1500m by .21 over Russian Yevgenia Lalenkova. American medal hope Brittany Bowe, the 2015 World champion who took bronze last year, finished 14th a day after taking eighth in her world-record 1000m distance.

Nuis and Krol went one-two in the men’s 1500m to tie Russia’s medal total. Then Irene Schouten took bronze in the women’s mass start to put the Netherlands ahead for good, followed by Bergsma’s capper.

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Netherlands on the board; more world records at speed skating worlds

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It took four world records from other countries before the Netherlands won its first title in an Olympic program event at the world single distances speed skating championships.

Jutta Leerdam got the dominant skating nation on the board on the third day of the four-day competition and in the ninth Olympic program event. Leerdam scored an upset over defending champion and world-record holder Brittany Bowe, the American who ended up eighth.

Leerdam, 21, prevailed despite having zero World Cup podiums to her name. She clocked 1:11.84, just .23 slower than Bowe’s world record set on the same Utah Olympic Oval last year. Bowe, who recently had her yearlong win streak snapped in the 1000m, finished in 1:12.92.

“It’s a nightmare,” Bowe said, according to media on site.

Later, the Netherlands won the men’s team pursuit in a world record 3:34.68, the fifth world record in Olympic events the last two days on the world’s fastest ice at the 2002 Olympic oval outside Salt Lake City.

Full results are here.

The world championships conclude Sunday, highlighted by American Joey Mantia defending his world title in the mass start.

In other Saturday events, both the men’s 1000m and women’s 5000m world records fell. On Friday, world records were lowered in the men’s 10,000m and women’s team pursuit.

Pavel Kulizhnikov followed his Friday world 500m title with the 1000m crown, repeating his double gold from 2016. Kulizhnikov was one of the Russians banned from the PyeongChang Olympics after he served a prior doping ban.

On Saturday, Kulizhnikov clocked 1:05.69 to take .49 off Dutchman Kjeld Nuis‘ record from last March, also set at Salt Lake City. Nuis, the Olympic 1000m and 1500m champion, took silver, 1.03 seconds behind.

Russian Natalya Voronina and Czech Martina Sablikova both went under Sablikova’s world record in the 5000m. Voronina came out on top in 6:39.02, 2.99 seconds faster than Sablikova’s record from a year ago and 2.16 seconds faster than Sablikova on Saturday.

Voronina’s time would have been the men’s world record as recently as 1993. Sablikova won the previous 10 world titles in the event dating to 2007.

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