Caster Semenya, a South African middle-distance runner who took home gold medals in both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, is taking aim at a new rule that mandates female competitors’ testosterone levels must be below a certain limit in order to compete.
On Monday, Semenya, who has been doggedly pursued about her sex since she won the 800 meter in Berlin’s 2009 World Championships, issued a formal legal challenge against the rule, arguing that it’s unfair and unnecessary. Via the New York Times:
“I am very upset that I have been pushed into the public spotlight again,” Semenya said in her first extensive remarks about the rule since it was announced in April.
“I don’t like talking about this new rule,” she said. “I just want to run naturally, the way I was born. It is not fair that I am told I must change. It is not fair that people question who I am.”
She continued: “I am Mokgadi Caster Semenya. I am a woman and I am fast.”
The rule, issued in April, seeks to police the testosterone levels in athletes competing internationally in womens’ events in distances between 400 meters and the mile. Those with more testosterone than deemed acceptable will be required to take hormonal birth control pills.
According to the the International Association of Athletics Federations, the rule has been instated in order to level the playing field, since athletes with heightened testosterone stand to improve their performance by as much as five percent:
“The latest research we have undertaken, and data we have compiled, show that there is a performance advantage in female athletes with DSD over the track distances covered by this rule,” Dr. Stephane Bermon, who works with IAAF’s medical and science department, told the Washington Post.
Athletes who choose not to lower their testosterone levels are left with few options, none of them good: run only races longer than a mile, compete against men, enter only competitions for intersex athletes or surrender eligibility to compete in prestigious competitions, like the Olympics.