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Caster Semenya can compete again without testosterone-reducing drugs—for now

After Kaepernick, Nike backs South Africa runner Caster Semenya
Reuters/Ibraheem Al Omari
Just do it.
By Yomi Kazeem
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Caster Semenya, the South African world and Olympics athletics champion, is free to compete at global athletics events once again.

After what amounted to a ban unless she took medication to reduce her testosterone levels, Semenya vowed the decision by the International Association of Athletics Federation  (IAAF) would not hold her back. So far, she’s keeping her word as a decision to take her case to the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland protesting the regulations has borne fruit: the Swiss court has temporarily suspended the IAAF’s ruling, allowing Semenya to compete globally without taking testosterone-reducing medication.

Semenya’s legal challenge came after the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled, in May, to uphold the regulations by IAAF that require ­hyperandrogenic athletes like Semenya to take medication to adjust their testosterone levels before they compete against other women in accredited competitions.

The body ruled that athletes with circulating testosterone of five nanomoles per liter of blood (5nmol/L) or above and are androgen-sensitive, will be required to meet certain criteria, including using medication to reduce their blood testosterone level to below 5nmol/L for a continuous period of at least six months, if they wish to compete internationally.

The ruling applies to female athletes competing in running events between 400 and 1,500 meters. Semenya’s signature event is 800 meters. It’s unclear if the reprieve by the Swiss court will remain in place long enough to allow Semenya defend her 800 meters gold medal at the World Championships starting in September in Doha.

While Semenya is not the only athlete affected, her stellar athletics career and high profile victories mean she’s by far the most prominent and has become the major face in the ongoing debate over the role of testosterone in performance.

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