The South African runner Caster Semenya, a two-time Olympian and a movie star in worldwide sports activities, has spent years difficult proposed limits on feminine athletes.
She has been fiercely defended and lauded in South Africa, and was awarded the Order of Ikhamanga, a recognition of great achievement, by President Jacob Zuma in 2014.
The proclamation stated she was “one of the most well-loved daughters of the soil who won hearts of many by making running look like poetry in motion.”
[A ruling by the best court docket in sports activities was a defeat for Caster Semenya.]
But on Wednesday, the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the best court docket in worldwide sports activities, dominated that feminine athletes who, like Semenya, have elevated ranges of testosterone should take hormone suppressants to compete in sure races. Here’s a have a look at the runner who’s on the heart of the controversy over intercourse testing in sports activities.
Breaking data and going through questions
Semenya was simply 18 when she received gold in the 800-meter race on the 2009 world observe and discipline championships in Berlin. But as she celebrated, she confronted questions over her gender. She was barred from competitors and subjected to sex tests at the request of the International Association of Athletics Federations, track and field’s world governing body. South African officials and others condemned the tests as racist and sexist, and the organization’s handling of the matter was widely criticized.
Semenya has always maintained that she is a woman and should be able to compete as one without hormone suppressants or any other body-altering measures.
“God made me the way I am, and I accept myself,” Semenya told You, a South African magazine, in 2009. “I am who I am, and I’m proud of myself.”
The government proclamation celebrated her remaining “poised and dignified” during the controversy. In September 2010, the British magazine New Statesman included Semenya in its annual list of “50 People That Matter,” writing that she was “an inspiration to gender campaigners around the world.”
Semenya carried South Africa’s flag in the 2012 Olympics, and won a silver medal in the 800 meters. Three years later, the Russian athlete who had taken the gold that year was disqualified for doping, and Semenya’s medal was upgraded. In 2016, she won her second Olympic gold in the 800 meters in Rio de Janeiro, amid continued questions about her testosterone levels.
She has appeared in ads for Nike that drew on her life story, is co-owner of a menstrual cup company called PrincessD and appeared on the cover of Forbes Woman Africa in December. She frequently posts training photos and inspirational quotations on Instagram and Twitter to her nearly 300,000 followers.
Semenya’s early life
She was born on Jan. 7, 1991, in a small village in Limpopo, the country’s northernmost province, and was one of five children, according to the South African government’s website. Amid the controversy over her first world championship, her father and grandmother told local news media that she was always raised as a girl and that the criticism and questions over her gender were unfair.
She and her wife, Violet Raseboya, met as teenagers. In a television interview on BET Africa, Semenya said they first met in a restroom in 2007, and called it a “funny” episode. Raseboya, also a runner, was being escorted by doping officials in the restroom when she saw Semenya, whom she mistook for a boy and challenged.
Some time later, the two started dating, and they married in 2015, South African news media reported. When Semenya returned home from the 2016 Olympics to a hero’s welcome at the airport, she handed over her gold medal to Raseboya and dismissed her critics.
“I do not have the time for them,” she said, according to the New Zealand news site Stuff. “It’s great to be here and receive such a welcome. I will always do my best. I hope that in four years’ time there will be even more people to fill the airport.”
Reaction to the latest news
Last June, Semenya announced that she would challenge the Court of Arbitration for Sport to block a rule limiting permitted testosterone levels in female athletes. She called it “discriminatory, irrational, unjustifiable.”
On Wednesday, the court ruled against her, stating that female athletes with elevated levels of testosterone must take suppressants to compete at events like the Olympics and the world championships at distances from 400 meters to the mile. The organization argues that athletes with high levels of testosterone have an unfair advantage.
[Does testosterone really give Caster Semenya an edge on the track?]
The South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee joined the chorus of strong condemnations of the ruling.
“Against all odds, Caster remains the great carrier of the Team South Africa flag, a symbol of national pride and we applaud her for her excellence,” the organization wrote on Twitter.
Supporters around the world also weighed in. The American tennis star Billie Jean King said on Twitter that the decision would prevent Semenya “from competing as her authentic self.”
Semenya’s lawyers said that they might appeal, arguing that “her unique genetic gift should be celebrated, not regulated.”
In a statement, Semenya said: “I know that the I.A.A.F.’s regulations have always targeted me specifically. For a decade the I.A.A.F. has tried to slow me down, but this has actually made me stronger. The decision of the C.A.S. will not hold me back. I will once again rise above and continue to inspire young women and athletes in South Africa and around the world.”
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