Caster Semenya

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Caster Semenya switches track events in Olympic bid

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Caster Semenya, barred from competing in women’s events from 400m through the mile unless she takes testosterone-suppressing measures, is switching to the 200m to pursue Tokyo Olympic qualification, according to her social media.

“My dream has always been, and will continue to be, to compete at the highest level of sport, and so in order to pursue my goals and dreams, I have decided to change events, and compete in the 200m,” was posted on the South African’s channels.

Semenya is a two-time Olympic 800m champion undefeated at the distance since the start of 2016. She and the other two Rio 800m medalists have said they are affected by a new World Athletics rule that would force them to take testosterone-suppressing measures to compete in the 400m, 800m or 1500m.

Semenya’s appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport was unsuccessful.

The move to the 200m became expected after she raced a 300m last month, and, reportedly, a 200m last week in small meets in South Africa. Her reported 200m time of 23.81 seconds is short of the Olympic qualifying standard of 22.80. No South African has run 22.80 since 2008.

“This has not been easy, but anything is possible,” Semenya told media on Friday. “I call myself supernatural, so I can do anything that I want.”

MORE: U.S. athletes qualified for Tokyo Olympics

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Caster Semenya listed for first track meet since June

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Caster Semenya is listed as entered in a track meet for the first time since a July court ruling barred her from racing her best events.

Semenya will race a 300m in South Africa on Friday, according to meet organizers. Semenya’s team has not responded to requests for comment, though her social media accounts reposted the meet’s promotional posts with photos of her.

“Back in business,” was posted on Semenya’s social media with an illustration of a race bib with her last name on it.

Semenya can enter a 300m without taking testosterone-suppressing measures. The new World Athletics rule that prohibits Semenya and others spans from the 400m through the mile.

Semenya, the Olympic 800m champion, and the other two Rio 800m medalists have said they are affected by the new rule instituted last year. Semenya’s appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport was unsuccessful.

Semenya previously signed with a South African soccer club with the intent to play competitive matches in 2020. She played the sport in her youth before becoming a world champion in 2009 at age 18.

It remains to be seen if she will still play soccer this year. Or if she will race more on the track. The 300m is not on the Olympic program, but the 200m is. Semenya raced one 200m last year, clocking 24.26 seconds in February, well off the Olympic qualifying standard of 22.80.

Semenya has won 31 straight 800m races dating to 2015, the last coming June 30 at the Pre Classic.

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Transgender track and field athletes now face same standard that has kept out Caster Semenya

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Transgender athletes will have to reduce their testosterone level to the same level applied to Caster Semenya and other athletes with Differences of Sex Development (DSD), under a new policy enacted by World Athletics (formerly the IAAF).

As with DSD athletes, the threshold for middle-distance runners has been lowered from 10 nanomoles per liter to 5.

“These Regulations have been drafted to align with the Eligibility Regulations for the Female Classification (Athletes with Differences of Sex Development) and include updates to reflect current medical standards and the legal framework,” World Athletics said in announcing the latest IAAF Council decisions.

The IAAF claimed a similar basis in medical standards last year when it announced its updated policy on DSD athletes: “No female would have serum levels of natural testosterone at 5 nmol/L or above unless they have DSD or a tumour.”

Semenya, a two-time Olympic champion at 800 meters, challenged that limit in the Court of Arbitration for Sport but lost her case in May. Given a brief reprieve by a Swiss court, she ran the fastest 800-meter time of the year (1:54.98), but a higher court overruled her appeal. She did not compete in the recent world championships.

MORE: Semenya laments lack of support

Another athlete affected by the DSD policy, 2016 Olympic bronze medalist Margaret Wambui, told the Olympic Channel she was struggling to find a new direction after the rule was passed.

“It affected me a lot,” Wambui said. “I didn’t want to train or do anything. …

“Caster has fought for us. She has done her level best. She has tried, but we failed.”

VIDEO: Wambui: “No one chose to be born the way they are”

Transgender athletes have not yet been prominent in international track and field, though controversies have arisen at other levels, particularly in a Connecticut case in which high school athletes filed a Title IX complaint after losing to transgender athletes. The athletes who filed the claim said they were potentially at a disadvantage in terms of earning college scholarships.

The new World Athletics policy insists that its stipulations for transgender athletes are actually generous. “The decision limit also takes into consideration that, for clinical purposes, the Endocrine Society Clinical Practice Guideline for Endocrine Treatment of Gender-Dysphoric/Gender-Incongruent Persons recommends that transgender females should have serum testosterone levels of less than 50 ng/dL (i.e. approximately 1.7 nmol/L).”

But while DSD and transgender athletes face different issues, Semenya and other DSD athletes have set a precedent by withdrawing from competition rather than bring their levels down to the 5 nmol/L standard. In CAS proceedings, Semenya said she experienced regular fevers, night sweats, significant weight gain and constant abdominal pain while taking medication to meet the previous standard of 10 nmol/L.

The International Olympic Committee also put a 10 nmol/L limit in place for both transgender and DSD athletes in 2015. Some athletes have complained that transgender athletes still have an unfair advantage under that policy.

The World Athletics policy also addresses transgender men, granting them permission to take regulated testosterone supplements to bring levels within a typical range for men.

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