Oppose the discriminatory IAAF gender classification resolutions

Caster Semenya

19 February 2019

The Department of Sport and Recreation South Africa (SRSA) and South African government at large has noted with concern, the matter of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Hyperandrogenism Regulations [hereafter referred to as Regulations].

In 2018 the IAAF republished new Gender Classification Regulations targeting hyperandrogenic athletes, and have restricted their application to 400m to mile, including 400m, hurdle races, 800m, 1500m, virtually all events and categories wherein Caster Semenya participates and dominate.

The IAAF argue that it “divides competition into male and female classifications because male athletes have clear performance advantages in terms of size, strength and power” and these advantages “are due mainly to the fact that, starting from puberty, [men] produce 10-30 times more testosterone than women”. They further ague that allowing men and women to compete will be "unfair". With this argument the IAAF implies that women who have Differences of Sexual Development are actually men. By this implication, they argue that Athletes with Differences of Sexual Development (DSD) have significantly higher testosterone levels than the women they’re competing against, and since testosterone is the key distinguishing factor between male and female performance, they believe athletes with DSD have an unfair advantage

SRSA note that “Unfair” is the key word, but argues that NATURALLY occurring high testosterone is just another natural advantage and not an unfair advantage, like a tall basketballer’s reach or a swimmer’s large feet. It should be noted that the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) doesn’t divide players by height, and the International Swimming Federation (FINA) doesn’t seek to protect swimmers with smaller feet, because both being taller in Basketball or having large feet in swimming  natural traits which may confer natural advantage, like alleged higher levels of Testosterone.

The argument of IAAF on a split between men and women does not hold water as other sports also do have such splits and they have not introduced such archaic, draconian and discriminatory regulations for those with high and low testosterone to "protect female athletes  

SRSA also hold a strong view that the adopted measure of Testosterone is flawed, because while it might seem intuitively true that testosterone provides a performance advantage, the IAAF needs to prove it, too. And it has to show that the advantage is so great that it can justify a set of regulations which we believe together with many other people in the world that are so discriminatory. This is where the IAAF case failed the last time it came before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in 2015.

The 2018 Regulations have since attracted criticism locally and globally, including from organisations and individuals in the sport and human rights fraternity who in essence condemned them as discrimination against women on the basis of their gender and their sex characteristics.

Special Rapporteurs in the Human Rights Council condemned Regulations as a contravention international human rights norms and standards including the right to equality and non-discrimination, the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, the right to physical and bodily integrity and the right to freedom from torture, and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and harmful practices.

The Women’s Sport Foundation has also characterised regulations as “exacerbating discrimination against women in sport who are perceived as not prescribing to normative ideas about femininity”.

As a country that has a well renowned Constitution which upholds protection and promotion of human rights, South African government has added its voice in condemnation of these Regulations. Government has since established mechanism to support an appeal filed by both Ms. Semenya and Athletics South Africa (ASA) at CAS because the Regulations are a gross violation of our human rights principles, which encourage full access for all to participate and compete at every level of our sport, free of discrimination, and that they will certainly discriminate against women with DSD.

This is a call to ALL individuals and organisations throughout the globe to join the against discrimination and violation of human rights that will be meted by these Regulations on female athletes considered not typical.

 “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to sit idle and do nothing”. Edmund Burke

 “In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends”. Dr. Martin Luther King,Jr.