Caster Semenya’s lawyer said Tuesday they will take her case to the European Court of Human Rights in what’s likely to be a last-ditch legal challenge against regulations that require the South African and some other female athletes to artificially lower their natural testosterone levels to compete.
Greg Nott, who has represented Semenya for more than a decade, gave no time frame for their challenge at the Strasbourg, France-based court, but it’s unlikely there would be a resolution before the Tokyo Olympics next summer.
Semenya, the two-time Olympic champion in the 800 metres, has twice lost legal appeals against World Athletics’ highly contentious testosterone limits, first at sport’s highest court in Switzerland in 2019 by a 2-1 majority of the judges, and then at the Swiss supreme court in September.
The rules require female athletes with conditions called differences of sex development that lead to high natural testosterone to lower it to below a specific level through birth control pills, hormone-blocking injections or surgery to be allowed to compete.
The rules apply to track events with distances from the 400 to the mile. Athletes must show their levels are below the threshold for at least six months before competing at top events like the Olympics, world championships, or Diamond League meets.
World Athletics argues the high testosterone gives Semenya and others an unfair advantage over athletes with testosterone in the typical female range.
The 29-year-old Semenya has refused to take medication to alter what she refers to as her natural gifts and hasn’t been allowed to compete in her favoured two-lap race since June last year. She has said she will try to compete at next year’s Tokyo Olympics in the 200, which doesn’t fall under the rules, but it’s uncertain if she will be able to qualify in a race she has little experience in.