IAAF argued in court that Caster Semenya is ‘biologically male’

Caster Semenya
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The governing body of track argued that Caster Semenya is “biologically male” and that is the reason she should reduce her natural testosterone to be allowed to compete in female competitions, according to documents released publicly by sport’s highest court for the first time on Tuesday.

The IAAF’s stance on Semenya and other female athletes affected by its new testosterone regulations was revealed in a 163-page decision from the Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport, where the South African runner took on the IAAF over its highly contentious hormone rules in a closed-doors five-day hearing in February. CAS released only excerpts of the final decision when it was announced last month.

Tuesday’s fuller court records, which were still partially redacted, show the IAAF referred to the two-time Olympic 800m champion as one of a number of “biologically male athletes with female gender identities.”

In witness statements to the court, Semenya responded to the assertion by saying that being described as biologically male “hurts more than I can put in words.”

Semenya told the court she was unable to express the depth of hurt and insult she felt at the IAAF “telling me that I am not a woman.”

The IAAF won the case at CAS by a 2-1 majority of the panel of judges, allowing it to implement testosterone limits for Semenya and other female athletes who it says were born with typical male chromosome patterns.

At least two other athletes, Olympic 800m silver and bronze medalists Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi and Margaret Wambui of Kenya, have said they are also affected by the new rules. They also have railed against the regulations and criticized the IAAF.

Semenya, who has been legally identified as female her whole life, appealed the CAS verdict to Switzerland’s supreme court on human rights grounds. She won an interim ruling to temporarily suspend the hormone regulations.

The dispute between the 28-year-old Semenya, who is also a three-time world champion, and the IAAF is viewed as the most complex and controversial that sport has faced in years.

The IAAF says Semenya is one of a number of female athletes born with a “differences of sex disorder” and the typical male XY chromosome pattern, giving them male levels of the hormone testosterone after puberty and therefore an unfair athletic advantage over other female athletes.

To be allowed to compete under the rules, Semenya and other affected athletes must medically reduce their testosterone to below a specific threshold set by the IAAF. The rules only apply to races from 400m to one mile.

Semenya has refused to take medication to alter what she calls her natural form.

Tuesday’s documents shone a light on some of the runner’s experiences in a bitter 10-year battle with track and field authorities, experiences which she hasn’t spoken about publicly.

Testifying to the court, Semenya said she had been subjected to gender verification tests by South African track authorities in the buildup to the 2009 World Championships without being told or understanding the nature of the tests. She was 18 at the time and preparing for her first major competition.

Then, after her breakthrough victory at those world championships in Berlin, Germany, Semenya said she was taken to a German hospital where the IAAF conducted another gender test on her. Semenya testified that the IAAF did not ask the then-teenager if she wanted to undergo the test.

“It was an order by the IAAF which I had no choice but to comply with,” Semenya testified, according to the CAS documents.

She described her first major championships and speculation over her gender as “the most profound and humiliating experience of my life.” She said her treatment was “atrocious and humiliating.”

Semenya also described a five-year period from 2010-15 where she reluctantly agreed take testosterone suppressants under a previous version of the IAAF’s rules because her career depended on it.

But Semenya said the medication caused her to experience significant weight gain and constantly feel sick, led to regular fevers, and caused internal abdominal pain.

She said the IAAF, which didn’t introduce its first set of testosterone regulations until 2011, used her as a “lab rat” as it experimented with hormone-reducing medication.

MORE: Olympic marathon medalist banned 4 years

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Kenenisa Bekele still eyes Eliud Kipchoge’s marathon world record, but a duel must wait

Kenenisa Bekele
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LONDON — Kenenisa Bekele made headlines last week by declaring “of course I am the best” long distance runner ever. But the Ethiopian was fifth-best at Sunday’s London Marathon, finishing 74 seconds behind Kenya’s Amos Kipruto.

Bekele, 40, clocked 2:05:53, the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. He was with the lead pack until being dropped in the 21st mile.

But Bekele estimated he could have run 90 to 120 seconds faster had he not missed parts of six weeks of training with hip and joint injuries.

“I expect better even if the preparation is short,” he said. “I know my talent and I know my capacity, but really I couldn’t achieve what I expect.”

Bekele is the second-fastest marathoner in history behind Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge, who broke his own world record by clocking 2:01:09 at the Berlin Marathon last week.

“I am happy when I see Eliud Kipchoge run that time,” Bekele said. “It motivates all athletes who really expect to do the same thing.”

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Bekele’s best time was within two seconds of Kipchoge’s previous world record (2:01:39). He described breaking Kipchoge’s new mark as the “main goal” for the rest of his career.

“Yes, I hope, one day it will happen, of course,” Bekele said. “With good preparation, I don’t know when, but we will see one more time.”

Nobody has won more London Marathons than Kipchoge, a four-time champion who set the course record (2:02:37) in 2019. But the two-time Olympic marathon champion did not run this year in London, as elite marathoners typically choose to enter one race each spring and fall.

Bekele does not know which race he will enter in the spring. But it will not be against Kipchoge.

“I need to show something first,” Bekele said. “I need to run a fast time. I have to check myself. This is not enough.”

Kipchoge will try to become the first runner to win three Olympic marathon titles at the Paris Games. Bekele, who will be 42 in 2024, has not committed to trying to qualify for the Ethiopian team.

“There’s a long time to go before Paris,” Bekele said. “At this moment I am not decided. I have to show something.”

So who is the greatest long distance runner ever?

Bekele can make a strong case on the track:

Bekele
Four Olympic medals (three gold)
Six World Championship medals (five gold)
Former 5000m and 10,000m world-record holder

Kipchoge
Two Olympic medals
Two World Championship medals (one gold)

But Kipchoge can make a strong case on the pavement:

Bekele
Second-fastest marathoner in history
Two World Marathon Major victories

Kipchoge
Four of the five best marathon times in history
Two-time Olympic marathon champion
12 World Marathon Major victories

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Yalemzerf Yehualaw, Amos Kipruto win London Marathon

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Ethiopian Yalemzerf Yehualaw became the youngest female runner to win the London Marathon, while Kenyan Amos Kipruto earned the biggest victory of his career in the men’s race.

Yehualaw, 23, clocked 2:17:26, prevailing by 41 seconds over 2021 London champ Joyciline Jepkosgei of Kenya.

Yehualaw tripped and fell over a speed bump around the 20-mile mark. She quickly rejoined the lead pack, then pulled away from Jepkosgei by running the 24th mile in a reported 4:43, which converts to 2:03:30 marathon pace; the women’s world record is 2:14:04.

Yehualaw and Jepkosgei were pre-race favorites after world record holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya withdrew Monday with a right hamstring injury.

On April 24, Yehualaw ran the fastest women’s debut marathon in history, a 2:17:23 to win in Hamburg, Germany.

She has joined the elite tier of female marathoners, a group led by Kenyan Peres Jepchirchir, the reigning Olympic, New York City and Boston champion. Another Ethiopian staked a claim last week when Tigist Assefa won Berlin in 2:15:37, shattering Yehualaw’s national record.

Joan Benoit Samuelson, the first Olympic women’s marathon champion in 1984, finished Sunday’s race in 3:20:20 at age 65.

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Kipruto, 30, won the men’s race in 2:04:39. He broke free from the leading group in the 25th mile and crossed the finish line 33 seconds ahead of Ethiopian Leul Gebresilase, who said he had hamstring problems.

Kipruto, one of the pre-race favorites, had never won a major marathon but did finish second behind world record holder Eliud Kipchoge in Tokyo (2022) and Berlin (2018) and third at the world championships (2019) and Tokyo (2018).

Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, the second-fastest marathoner in history, was fifth after being dropped in the 21st mile. His 2:05:53 was the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. Bekele ran his personal best at the 2019 Berlin Marathon — 2:01:41 — and has not run within four minutes of that time since.

The major marathon season continues next Sunday with the Chicago Marathon, headlined by a women’s field that includes Kenyan Ruth Chepngetich and American Emily Sisson.

London returns next year to its traditional April place after being pushed to October the last three years due to the pandemic.

MORE: Bekele looks ahead to Kipchoge chase after London Marathon

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