World Athletics insists it has no plans to change its rules despite double Olympic champion Caster Semenya winning a landmark legal case at the European Court of Human Rights.
Semenya, 32, won a challenge relating to rules introduced by World Athletics in 2018 that force athletes like her with differences of sexual development to take testosterone-lowering medication in order to compete in middle-distance events.
The South African 800m runner, who missed the Covid-delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympics as a result of the dispute, has argued that taking the medication could endanger her health and that the rules deny DSD athletes the right to rely on their natural abilities.
She failed with two previous appeals, to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and later the Swiss Supreme Court but succeeded in her challenge to the Swiss government on the grounds that it had failed to uphold her rights.
However, World Athletics pointed to the fact that the seven-person ECHR panel had only narrowly found in her favour by a margin of 4-3 and indicated that it would continue its legal fight to uphold the rules on DSD athletes.
“We remain of the view that the DSD regulations are a necessary, reasonable and proportionate means of protecting fair competition in the female category as the Court of Arbitration for Sport and Swiss Federal Tribunal both found, after a detailed and expert assessment of the evidence,” the governing body said.
“The case was filed against the state of Switzerland, rather than World Athletics. We will liaise with the Swiss government on the next steps and, given the strong dissenting views in the decision, we will be encouraging them to seek referral of the case to the ECHR Grand Chamber for a final and definitive decision.
“In the meantime, the current DSD regulations, approved by World Athletics Council in March 2023, will remain in place.”
Semenya has previously said she felt she had been “crucified” for her refusal to continue taking hormones, adding: “Why do you have to drug someone? So you want them to fit in. There is nothing like that in life.”
In its judgement published today, the ECHR said Semenya “had not been afforded sufficient institutional and procedural safeguards in Switzerland to allow her to have her complaints examined effectively, especially since her complaints concerned substantiated and credible claims of discrimination as a result of her increased testosterone level caused by differences of sex development.”
Semenya burst onto the scene at the 2009 World Championships when just 18, winning 800m gold and immediately finding herself at the centre of an investigation into her sex.
She was cleared to compete again in 2010 and went on to dominate the 800m, winning two Olympic gold and two more World Championship titles, until the DSD rule change in 2018.