Caster Semenya set to sue World Athletics – Here's why

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As Caster Semenya’s fight to run in her favourite 800m event continues, she is considering filing for damages from World Athletics following an amendment made to a study that was influential in stopping her from ultimately defending her Olympic title.

Semenya’s lawyer, Greg Nott, described the change in the British Journal of Sport Medicine’s (BJSM) wording in a study about female athletes with differences in sexual development (DSD) as “unfair, cynical and untoward”, and the timing of it just after the Tokyo Olympics as “shocking and reprehensible”.

The New York Times reported recently that the scientists behind the 2017 study had now issued a correction about the impact that high levels of naturally occurring testosterone in female athletes had on performance, stating that these outcomes were “exploratory”, and that it “could have been misleading by implying a causal inference”.

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The study played a major role in Semenya and other female DSD athletes being prevented from running in events from 400m to 1 500m, unless they took medication and/or underwent surgery to lower their testosterone levels.

The 30-year-old Semenya, who won the 800m gold medal at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, refused to subject herself to such treatment, and tried to qualify for the Tokyo Games in the 5 000m event, which she was unable to do.

But the correction in the study has now prompted Nott to seek other avenues to gain justice for his client, having previously been unsuccessful at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Semenya has been waiting for a hearing at the European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, for a number of months.

“We are considering the CAS route (once more). We are considering all options that are available to us. We will also look at damages to Caster – financial damages. She has been off the track since 2019, and we will look for damages as well possibly,” Nott said yesterday.

Asked who would be liable to pay such damages, Nott said: “We will look to the world body (World Athletics), and possibly certain individuals who have drummed this on.

“There is a fight here, and it’s not going away. I’ve been on this case for 12 years, and I am not giving up now. We are before the European Court for Human Rights. It’s obviously a case of importance, so it’s been given a priority date.”


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