Semenya ruling ‘gross human rights violation’: Mthethwa

  • We will study the judgment and consider options and avenues at our disposal in our collective campaign to fight this injustice,  Mthethwa.

Sport, arts and culture Nathi Mthethwa on Wednesday described the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland’s dismissal of Caster Semenya’s appeal of a ruling which ordered her to take medication to reduce her testosterone levels as “unfortunate” and “offensive” to the human rights of female athletes classified as hyperandrogenic.

“As the government of democratic South Africa, a country renowned for its tradition of promoting and protecting basic human rights, together with Athletics SA, we will study the judgment and consider various options and avenues at our disposal in our collective campaign to fight this injustice,” Mthethwa said in a statement.

The double Olympic 800 metres champion has been fighting last year’s ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which said that she should take the drugs before she could compete in events between 400 meters and 1,500 meters.

The court found that subjecting female athletes to drugs or surgical interventions to compete did not amount to a violation of Swiss public policy.

Some competitors claimed that women with higher levels of the hormone had an unfair advantage.

The South African government called on the world to rally behind Semenya in a quest to defeat what it called an injustice against women in sport, and in particular African women.

“We call upon all South Africans, Africans and the entire world to rally behind Caster in our quest to defeat injustice against women in sport and particular African women,” noted Mthethwa.

“Chills my people, a man can change the rules but the very same man cannot rule my life,” Semenya wrote on Twitter after the ruling was announced.

“What I’m saying is that I might have failed against them but the truth is that I have won this battle long ago. Go back to my achievements then you will understand. Doors might be closed but not locked,” she added.

The outspoken Semenya said she would target the 200m, an event she is permitted to compete in without taking medication to reduce her naturally elevated testosterone levels.

She was competing in the 200m in her native South Africa earlier this year with an eye on qualifying for the Olympics before the postponement of this year’s games.

“I am very disappointed by this ruling, but refuse to let World Athletics drug me or stop me from being who I am,” Semenya said in a statement released via her lawyers.

“Excluding female athletes or endangering our health solely because of our natural abilities puts World Athletics on the wrong side of history.

“I will continue to fight for the human rights of female athletes, both on the track and off the track until we can all run free the way we were born. I know what is right and will do all I can to protect basic human rights, for young girls everywhere,” the statement continued.

World Athletics said it was “very pleased” that the highest court in Switzerland had joined with the highest court in sport in endorsing its arguments.

“World Athletics has always maintained that its regulations are lawful and legitimate and that they represent a fair, necessary and proportionate means of ensuring the rights of all female athletes to participate on fair and equal terms,” it indicated.

Semenya, who is also a three-time world champion, could still appeal to the European court of human rights. However, in its statement, the Swiss federal tribunal appeared to suggest that such an appeal would be unlikely to succeed.

“World Athletics fully respects each individual’s dignity and supports the social movement to have people accepted in a society based on their chosen legal sex and/or gender identity,” it said.

World Athletics welcomed the decision by the Swiss courts to uphold what it deems “a legitimate and proportionate means of protecting the right of all female athletes to participate in our sport on fair and meaningful terms.”

By: Thapelo Molebatsi