Semenya targeted by new testosterone rules

28 April 2018, 01:42 | Kristine Mills

Caster Semenya forced to lower testosterone in new IAAF rules

Caster Semenya faces new classification after IAAF ruling

The new hyperandrogenism rules have been put together by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and were released on Thursday.

The IAAF defines athletes with DSD as any female with blood testosterone levels equal to or greater than 5 nmol/L.

The IAAF released new gender eligibility guidelines this week that ban intersex athletes from competing in middle-distance events from the 400m to the mile in global competition unless they artificially reduce their naturally occurring testosterone through hormone therapy. These distances, which synthesize the need for speed, power and endurance, are events in which raised testosterone levels can have the most profound influence on performances, the sport's top officials say.

The governing body continued: "Most females (including elite female athletes) have low levels of testosterone circulating naturally in their bodies (0.12 to 1.79 nmol/L in blood); while after puberty the normal male range is much higher (7.7 - 29.4 nmol/L)". The IAAF initially prohibited the use of performance enhancing drugs, but now they are trying to promote the performance inhibiting drugs by saying that if you have a high testosterone level you should be taking performance inhibiting drugs to reduce the level of testosterone in your body.

Prior to the IAAF's announcement, other athletes believed that Semenya had an unfair advantage because of the high levels of her naturally occurring testosterone. Athletes would be required to take these hormones up to six months before they will be allowed to compete.

The IAAF's medical advisors have suggested the advantage held by DSD athletes is far less pronounced in short sprints or longer distance endurance races, leaving the door open for Semenya to move up to 5,000 or 10,000 metres if she desires.

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The athlete has made headlines after the IAAF issued new eligibility regulations for female classification which greatly impact her, among others (read the full story here).

Athletics South Africa said they will support "all our athletes who may be affected by this new ruling". By 2011, the IAAF put a limit on testosterone levels in female athletes.

Dr Stephane Bermon, from the IAAF's medical and science department, stressed that "no athlete will be forced to undergo surgery" under the new rules, which come into force in November.

In 2017, the British Journal of Sports Medicine determined women with elevated testosterone levels had a 1.78% yo 4.53% competitive advantage in events including the 400 meters, 400-meter hurdles, 800 meters, hammer throw and pole vault. The 27-year old Polokwane-born athlete recently won gold in both 800m and 1500m races at the just concluded Commonwealth games. "It's about sports", she said.

"Once done, we will then inter-act with the IAAF".

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