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IAAF to fight Swiss court ruling on Caster Semenya

AFP-JIJI, AP

The IAAF said Tuesday it will fight a Swiss court decision to suspend its rules obliging athletes, including double Olympic champion Caster Semenya, to lower their testosterone levels in order to compete in certain events.

Switzerland’s highest court on Monday temporarily suspended the IAAF rules following an appeal by Semenya, the South African who won the women’s 800-meter final at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.

The athlete was contesting a decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport which previously found that the rules were “discriminatory” but “necessary” to ensure fairness in women’s athletics.

“The IAAF will continue to fight for equal rights and opportunities for all women and girls in our sport today and in the future,” the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) said in a statement, adding that it was committed to the “full participation of women” in athletics.

It said it would “seek a swift reversion of the super-provisional order moving forwards.”

The IAAF and Semenya’s legal team must now make further submissions to the court, which will decide on whether to order a longer suspension of the measures.

Should the IAAF fail to overturn the ruling, the regulations will remain suspended until Semenya’s full appeal is heard by a panel of Swiss federal judges.

That could take up to a year or more, meaning the 28-year-old South African might be cleared to run unrestricted in her favored event in the remaining Diamond League meetings and the world championships in Doha in September and October.

The rules require women with higher than normal female hormone levels, a condition known as hyperandrogenism, to lower the amount of testosterone in their bodies artificially if they are to compete in races over distances of 400 meters to the mile.

The ruling has implications for other athletes, too. Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi and Margaret Wambui of Kenya, both Olympic medalists in the 800, have said they are also affected by the rules.

The IAAF says it will not identify athletes affected by the new rule, but says there are dozens in elite athletics.