THE BIG PICTURE: Court of Arbitration for Sport upholds IAAF regulations on applicable levels of testosterone for women

The Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport has dismissed the requests for arbitration by Athletics South Africa and two-time Olympic 800 m champion Caster Semenya against the International Association of Athletics Federation’s new regulations on allowable levels of testosterone for women in specific events.

The announcement was posted online at noon Central European Time and noted that the three-member agreed, in a 2-1 decision, to allow the IAAF to go forward with its regulations for those competing in the women’s division with “Differences in Sex Development.”

The CAS statement demonstrated the difficulty that the panel had with this case, noting that the “Claimants were unable to establish that the DSD Regulations were ‘invalid’. The Panel found that the DSD Regulations are discriminatory but the majority of the Panel found that, on the basis of the evidence submitted by the parties, such discrimination is a necessary, reasonable and proportionate means of achieving the IAAF’s aim of preserving the integrity of female athletics” with restrictions limited to competitors in events from 400 m to one mile.

However, the 165-page decision – which has not yet been released – also noted that the “CAS Panel expressed some serious concerns as to the future practical application of these DSD Regulations. While the evidence available so far has not established that those concerns negate the conclusion of prima facie proportionality, this may change in the future unless constant attention is paid to the fairness of how the Regulations are implemented.”

The panel was also troubled about the actual advantage to be gained by women with elevated testosterone levels in the 1,500 m and mile events and suggested that the implementation of the regulations for those events be deferred.

The CAS holding is appealable to the Swiss Federal Tribunal within 30 days, but the IAAF and Athletics South Africa agreed previously that both sides would abide by the Court’s determination.

The IAAF’s statement noted that it is “grateful” for the “detailed and prompt response” to the challenge to its regulations, but will begin enforcing them as of 8 May. Going forward:

● “Relevant Athletes have one week (7 days) from today (1 May 2019) to reduce testosterone levels to within the regulation levels so are encouraged to initiate their suppressive treatment as soon as possible.”

● “Relevant Athletes seeking eligibility for the IAAF World Championships Doha 2019 must undergo a blood sampling to measure their serum testosterone level” by 8 May.

● In order to be eligible for this year’s IAAF World Championships in Doha (QAT), a “Relevant Athlete” must have a serum testosterone level of 5 nmol/L or less by 8 May.

The regulations do not apply to the IAAF Diamond League meet in Doha on Friday (3 May). Semenya is not entered in the meet, but two other women whose status is expected to be impacted by the regulations are registered to compete: 2016 Rio silver winner Francine Niyonsaba (BDI) and Rio bronze medalist Margaret Wambui (KEN).

So what about Semenya? She has hardly been idle, and is on the move to compete, having won the 1,500 m and 5,000 m (!) at the South African National Championships on 25-26 April. She won the 5,000 m in a lifetime best of 16:05.97 on the 25th – her second-ever competition at the distance – and the 1,500 m in 4:13.59 on the 26th.

She posted a Tweet on the decision 14 minutes after it was released:

Semenya could run in the 5,000 m at the World Champs if she met the qualifying standard of 15:22.00 by 6 September without having to do anything about her serum testosterone level. However, she would have to reduce her level to run in the 1,500 m if the IAAF maintains its regulation on that race, while the CAS has urged it to defer it.