Caster Semenya

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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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Caster Semenya will not attend world championships to receive gold medal

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JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Caster Semenya is finally getting her gold medal from the 2011 World Championships after Russian Maria Savinova was stripped of the title for doping.

But Semenya won’t attend a medal reallocation ceremony at the world championships in Doha, Qatar, South Africa’s track federation said on Thursday.

Semenya was barred from defending her latest 800m world title in Doha because she has refused to follow new IAAF rules requiring her to medically reduce her natural testosterone level to be allowed to compete in certain races, including her favorite event.

Instead, Athletics South Africa will receive the medal from the world track body on Semenya’s behalf in Doha and decide on an appropriate event to hand the medal to Semenya in South Africa, it said.

The medal reallocation is happening after the Court of Arbitration for Sport in 2017 upheld Savinova’s doping ban, nullifying her results from 2010 to 2013. She was also stripped of her 2012 Olympic 800m title. That title has also gone to Semenya, who finished second in that race, too.

Semenya, who has two Olympic and three world 800m titles, has, since July, not been allowed to compete at top-level track meets in distances from 400m to one mile because she refused to take hormone-suppressing medication in line with rules introduced by the IAAF last year.

Semenya challenged the rules twice in court. She lost at the Court of Arbitration for Sport this year, and her second legal appeal is still being considered by the Swiss supreme court.

If she fails in court a second time, Semenya may also be unable to defend her Olympic title next year in Tokyo.

Semenya announced last week she was joining a South African soccer club and will play for it in 2020 but later denied that meant she was retiring from athletics.

MORE: Michael Norman says no 200m-400m double for Olympics

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Caster Semenya signs with soccer club

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Caster Semenya plans to play competitive soccer next year. Whether she races on the track again is unknown.

Semenya, the two-time Olympic 800m champion, said she signed with a South African 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.

“I am looking forward to this new journey, and hopefully I can contribute as much as I can to the club,” she said, according to a press release.

Semenya made this move after a Swiss court ruled in late July that she can’t in her best events while she appeals a Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) decision that upheld the IAAF’s new rule that bars her. Semenya took that ruling to mean that she won’t be able to defend her world title in Doha in three weeks.

“This will not deter me from continuing my fight for the human rights of all of the female athletes concerned,” she said in a July 30 statement.

The IAAF rule that Semenya is trying to strike bars her from races between 400m and the mile unless she takes testosterone-suppressing measures, under which she would be allowed to return to those distances after six months. Semenya refuses to take those measures.

Semenya first appealed to CAS, which on May 1 ruled in favor of the IAAF. Semenya then appealed the CAS decision to the Swiss Supreme Court, which at first allowed her, but not others with her condition of difference of sexual development (DSD), to compete pending the appeal’s outcome.

Semenya has won 31 straight 800m races dating to 2015. All three Rio Olympic 800m medalists have said they are affected by the new rule. Semenya raced once while the Swiss Supreme Court allowed her to, winning the Pre Classic on May 30.

“First chapter of my life done, looking forward to my second chapter,” Semenya tweeted on July 30.

Semenya intimated her move to soccer earlier this week with Instagram posts of a soccer ball, kit and cleats.

MORE: Michael Norman says no 200m-400m double for Olympics

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