Caster Semenya told she can compete in men’s races

Caster Semenya running

Caster Semenya has been told by The International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) that she can run against men, should she choose to.

After telling the South African athlete—who has naturally high testosterone levels—that she can no longer run in women’s races between 400m and one mile, the IAAF has followed up with a list of events Semenya is eligible for.

In a letter to the World Medical Association (WMA) seen by South Africa’s TimesLIVE, officials said that Semenya is entitled to complete in any women’s discipline “other than track events between 400m and a mile.”

She can also partake in any men’s event of her choosing “without restriction,” the IAAF wrote on Wednesday (May 8).

Caster Semenya loses IAAF appeal

The double Olympian lost a legal battle against the IAAF on May 1 over new rules which place limits on female athlete’s testosterone levels.

Under the regulations, women with a so-called difference of sexual development (DSD) will be forced to take hormones for at least six months before competing in order to alter their biology.

Semenya has said that she will not comply.

Five days before the regulations came into effect, Semenya won 800m gold at the Doha meeting of the IAAF Diamond League on Friday (May 3).

Caster Semenya running

Caster Semenya of South Africa races to the finish line in Doha, Qatar. (Francois Nel/Getty)

After the race, many expected the 28-year-old to announce her retirement.

Instead, she said: “I believe nothing is hard in life because it is up to you how you take life.

“What sport teaches you is to keep pushing on despite all odds. I know life can be difficult at times but I believe there is always a way to resolve issues.

“If a wall is placed in front of me, I jump it. I am going to keep enjoying my life and live it. I will keep on training and running. To me impossible is nothing.”

“If a wall is placed in front of me, I jump it.”

—Caster Semenya

A week earlier, Semenya won 5,000m gold at the South African Athletics Championships, fuelling speculation that she will switch to longer distances which are not covered by the IAAF ban.

Caster Semenya case divides sport

Since the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) issued its ruling, several high-profile figures have come out in support of the lesbian runner.

Tokozile Xasa, the South African sports minister, said that the ruling “tramples on the human rights and dignity of Caster Semenya and other women athletes,” according to TimesLIVE.

Allyson Felix, the most decorated woman in Olympic track and field history, said that she was “disappointed.”

“We’re talking about human beings,” she told Julie Foudy’s Laughter Permitted podcast.

On the other side of the coin, a handful of athletes have backed the IAAF’s decision.

Before the CAS verdict, retired marathon runner Paula Radcliffe said that a ruling in Semenya’s favour could represent “the death of women’s sport.”

Former Olympic swimmer Sharron Davies also agreed with the decision, suggesting that sport could become divided by chromosomes instead of sex.