IAAF testosterone policy: So m

IAAF testosterone policy: So much for ‘level playing fields’

One of Caster’s recent tweets sums the last few days up perfectly: ‘How beautiful it is to stay silent when someone expects you to be enraged’. That’s our girl.

IAAF testosterone policy: So m

You know when Caster Semenya is trending, there are no grey areas.

Thursday was no exception with South Africa’s star athlete the main target of some ridiculous policy. Accept it or consider other options like quitting … as if.

The IAAF revealed their greater plan to ‘level the playing fields’ by revealing their highly controversial rule changes for athletes with hyperandrogenism. And as expected, our newly crowned double 2018 Commonwealth champion is the number one target, barely able to bask in the glory brought on her by her remarkable achievements Down Under.

Basically, the athletics governing body approved a proposal to limit naturally produced testosterone for female competitors in distances ranging from 400m to the mile. The rule will be implemented by November and is based on two pieces of research commissioned by the IAAF.

It supposedly proves that those with naturally high-occurring testosterone levels enjoyed an advantage of between 1.8 and 4.5% over their rivals.

The new law stipulates that female athletes must adhere to the following rules:
(a) she must be recognized at law either as female or as intersex (or equivalent);
(b) she must reduce her blood testosterone level to below five (5) nmol/L for a continuous period of at least six months (e.g., by use of hormonal contraceptives); and
(c) thereafter she must maintain her blood testosterone level below five (5) nmol/L continuously (i.e.: whether she is in competition or out of competition) for so long as she wishes to remain eligible.

But here’s the kicker: the IAAF randomly added the 1500m (one of Semenya’s events) despite their own research showing there is no advantage to higher T-levels in this event.

The governing body also exlcuded two events (hammer throw and pole vault) where their own research showed there was the biggest advantage.


The new policy will force Semenya to consider switching to the 5 000 or 10 000m events if she refuses to take medication in tablet form on a daily basis.

How does the IAAF see this new, carefully thought out arrangement as ‘levelling the playing fields’ though?

When a naturally gifted athlete, born with the DSD (hyperandrogenism) condition, is forced to undergo hormone treatment for at least six months at a time. How can this ever be considered fair?

Why not embrace the sheer athleticism and explosive power Semenya brings to the world of athletics instead of thinking up ways to halt her progress.

The timing of this bombshell also has to be questioned. Why now?

Semenya, 27, is in the prime of her career with several medals and record-breaking opportunities on the cards.

The next two years are littered with several glittering showpieces in the run-up to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.  While the new rules won’t affect her Diamond League series participation just yet, next year’s World Championships in September is one event already under the spotlight.

Having only recently broken through in the 1500m, it would be so sad to see her abandon her ambitions after such a dominant run in her second-choice event. Imagine being able to boast a time of 4:00.71, not only a national record but a Commonwealth Games record too, as a personal best time in an event not listed as your speciality. We might realise how spoilt we are to have Caster, but the rest of the athletics world don’t.

Adding to the dilemma are the potential health risks associated with medically reducing testosterone levels.

Katrina Karkazis, a Yale University professor, says: “Lowering testosterone can have serious lifelong health effects. If done via surgery, women are at high risk for osteoporosis.”

Others have argued that by attributing Semenya’s athleticism to – testosterone – undermines her skill, preparation and achievement.

And lastly, to even begin to suggest that if she isn’t willing to take the drugs to reduce her blood testosterone levels to within acceptable standards, then she can gladly compete against men is ludicrous to say the least.

Caster has endured way more humiliation than any international athlete should ever have to and if it were you or me, we would’ve quit long ago.

But not our Caster.