Caster Semenya Can’t Defend Olympic Title Unless She Lowers Testosterone, Court Rules

Olympic gold medalist runner Caster Semenya must lower her testosterone levels if she wants to defend her 800 meter title in Tokyo next year, a Swiss court ruled Tuesday, bringing an end to Semenya’s long legal battle against her sport’s governing body that brought controversy and heated debate to the role hormones play in athletic performance.

Caster Semenya competes in a 2019 race in Doha, Qatar.



Semenya, who hails from South Africa, identifies as female and was judged to be female at birth, but has naturally higher levels of testosterone and XY chromosomes due to being born with a sex development disorder. Tuesday’s ruling by Switzerland’s supreme court dismissed Semenya’s appeal of a 2019 decision that ordered her—and athletes with similar hormonal conditions—to suppress testosterone levels in order to compete. Testosterone levels can be lowered either through medication or surgery, according to the Associated Press. The International Association for Athletics Federation, the governing body for running, maintains that athletes with “differences of sexual development,” and more specifically female athletes with higher levels of testosterone, have an advantage in some events due to additional muscle mass, more strength and the ability to take in more oxygen.

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