Race To Find Gender Test For Athletes Falls At First Hurdle

The world athletics governing body is struggling with finding a definitive way to separate men from women.

The latest plan from the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF) is to set a maximum testosterone level for women competing in events between 400m and a mile, which the athlete must stick to for at six months prior to taking part in the event.

The ruling aims to eliminate genetic advantages for women with high testosterone readings by making them race against men.

But the plan has come in for universal criticism from female athletes and the United Nations.

Olympic 800m champion Caster Semenya, 28, is ready to challenge the IAAF over the decision at the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The court’s decision is binding on the IAAF.

Confidentiality breach

Semenya’s lawyers and Athletics South Africa (ASA) have accused the IAAF of breaching confidentiality regulations by releasing a list of five expert witnesses testifying for Semenya.

“Semenya believes the IAAF press release is a clear breach of the confidentiality provisions that was orchestrated in an effort to influence public opinion in circumstances where the IAAF knew that Semenya would not be prepared to respond because she was complying with her confidentiality obligations,” said her lawyers.

“As a matter of fairness, Semenya raised this issue with the Cas and has been granted permission to publicly release information responding to the IAAF press release‚ including disclosing the experts who are testifying in support of Semenya’s case.”

Human rights abuse

The IAAF responded that the court process allowed the witness list to be circulated. The hearing is scheduled for next month.

Meanwhile, the United Nations is looking at the IAAF ruling as a breach of human rights.

The UN Human Rights Council is investigating the ruling and issued a statement saying: “Governing bodies should to refrain from developing and enforcing policies and practices that force, coerce or otherwise pressure women and girl athletes into undergoing unnecessary, humiliating and harmful medical procedures in order to participate in women’s events in competitive sports.”

Semenya called the rule “unfair”, adding: “I just want to run naturally, the way I was born.”

Testosterone is a hormone prevalent in men that increases muscle mass, strength and haemoglobin, which affects endurance for athletes.