800m Olympic champion Caster Semenya has declared she’s “unquestionably women” ahead of hearing of a case challenging proposed rules to restrict testosterone levels in female athletes at the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS).
The 28-year-old South African made the statement after IAAF denied it would argue during the hearing next week that she should be classified as a biological male.
“Ms Semenya is unquestionably a woman. She is a heroine and an inspiration to many around the world,” her lawyers said in a statement.
“She asks that she be respected and treated as any other athlete.”
The rules would force so-called “hyperandrogenic” athletes or those with “differences of sexual development” (DSD) to keep testosterone levels below a prescribed amount.
The rules were to have been instituted in November 2018 but have been put on ice pending next week’s hearings.
Supported by the South African Athletics Federation, the two-time Olympic champion in the 800m (2012, 2016) and three-time world champion (2009, 2011, 2017) has denounced the proposals.
“I just want to run naturally, the way I was born. It is not fair that I am told I must change. It is not fair that people question who I am,” she has said previously.
“She looks forward to responding to the IAAF at the upcoming CAS hearing,” Semenya’s legal team said, adding that “her genetic gift should be celebrated, not discriminated against”.
As well as Semenya, the silver and bronze medalists of the 800m at the Rio Olympics, Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi and Kenya’s Margaret Wambui, have also faced questions about their testosterone levels.