European Court of Human Rights must make final decision on Semenya


The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, begins Wednesday with a hearing during which it must be decided whether Caster Semenya can be required to lower her testosterone levels in order to compete.

This court’s rulings are binding.

“This judgment is going to be historic, because it affects the autonomy of sports organizations to regulate access to their competitions, taking into account respect for human rights,” says Antoine Duval, a specialist in sports law at the Asser Institute in The Hague.

“My hope is that World Athletics, and indeed all sports organizations, will take the European Court of Human Rights’ decision into account and ensure that the dignity and human rights of athletes are respected,” Semenya said in the run-up to the hearing.

The double Olympic champion is believed to be already in Strasbourg to present her case.

However, Semenya asked for financial help in the run-up to the trial at a media conference in Johannesburg on Friday.

“We lack money. We have a lot of experts coming in that we have to pay,” Semenya said at the media conference last week.

The 33-year-old South African athlete won a long legal battle in Switzerland’s Supreme Court last July when this court ruled that Semenya was the victim of discrimination.

RNews previously reported that as part of this case, Semenya disputed the issue of whether her rights were violated in terms of a requirement that women with high testosterone levels be obliged to lower these levels with the use of medication.

The three-time world champion in middle-distance races is classified as a DSD athlete, i.e. an athlete with “differences in sexual development”.

Since World Athletics’ governing body introduced rules in 2018 requiring women with high testosterone levels to lower these levels with the use of medication, Semenya has refused to do so.

As a result, she was banned from competing in the 800 m event.

In her long legal battle, Semenya lost an appeal in the Court of Arbitration for Sport and three years ago Switzerland’s Supreme Court upheld the decision. Semenya then took her case against Switzerland’s Supreme Court to the European Court of Human Rights, winning the appeal case.

Swiss authorities, backed by World Athletics, announced after the ruling that they would take their case to the same human rights court.

Among other things, Semenya won Olympic gold at the London Games in 2012 and again in Rio in 2016.