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The upcoming IAAF Court of Arbitration for Sport hearing is expected to be very divisive.

By Chris Chavez
February 13, 2019

The International Association of Athletics Federation has denied a report that they will argue women's Olympic 800 meter champion Caster Semenya should be classified as a 'biological male' during a Court of Arbitration for Sport five-day hearing about athletes with "differences of sexual development," or DSD. Track and field's world governing body hit back at a report that was published in The Times of London on Wednesday afternoon.

The Times reported that IAAF lawyers will argue that Semenya would be allowed to compete in female fields if she agrees to take testosterone suppressants. The IAAF is attempting to reinstate regulations to govern female athletes with similar DSD to Semenya and others with elevated testosterone levels.

The IAAF issued the following statement after the release of the report:

"The IAAF is not classifying any DSD (Differences of Sexual Development) athlete as male. To the contrary, we accept their legal sex without question, and permit them to compete in the female category. However if a DSD athlete has testes and male levels of testosterone, they get the same increases in bone and muscle size and strength and increases in haemoglobin that a male gets when they go through puberty, which is what gives men such a performance advantage over women. Therefore, to preserve fair competition in the female category, it is necessary to require DSD athletes to reduce their testosterone down to female levels before they compete at international level."

Under the new rule, female athletes would be limited to natural testosterone levels of five nanomoles per liter. Most women have natural testosterone evels of .12 to 1.79 nanomoles per liter. The normal adult male range is about 7.7 to 29.4 nanomoles per liter. The rule is expected to impact athletes in distances from 400 meters to the mile. The rule was set to take effect in Nov. 2018 but was postponed until the outcome of the hearing.

In June, Semenya called the testosterone rule as “discriminatory, irrational, unjustifiable” and announced she would legally challenge the IAAF. Semenya, 28, is a two-time Olympic gold medalist in the 800 meters. The South African runner won her first world championship gold medal at 18 years old in 2009. Less than a month after her victory, it was reported that the IAAF subjected Semenya to gender verification tests. She was cleared for competition in 2010 but kept details of her case confidential. Semenya's times slowed after 2010, which was just before the IAAF implemented "eligibility rules for females with hyperandrogenism" in April 2011 that required females with the medical condition to keep their androgen levels below the male range in order to be eligible to compete against women.

The previous rule by the IAAF was suspended in 2015 when CAS said the IAAF did not have enough evidence to back the performance advantage gained by the raised levels during an appeal centered on Indian sprinter Dutee Chand.

Semenya has never publicly confirmed any medical condition or claims that she takes hormone suppressants. Since 2015, Semenya has won two world championship gold medals in the 800 meters, two Commonwealth Games gold medals (one in the 800 meters and one in the 1,500 meters) and the 2016 Olympics in the 800 meters. Last year, she lowered her personal best to 1:54.25 to become the fourth-fastest woman of all-time. The world record is 1:53.28, set by Jarmila Kratochvílová of Czechoslovakia in 1983–during a time period considered a highly-suspect era for track and field and doping.

“I just want to run naturally, the way I was born," Semenya said in June 2018. "It is not fair that I am told I must change. It is not fair that people question who I am.”

In the years since the rule's suspension, the IAAF commissioned a study that determined female athletes with elevated testosterone levels gained a competitive advantage from 1.78% to 4.53% in events like the 400 meters, the 400-meter hurdles, the 800 meters, the hammer throw and the pole vault, according to The New York Times. The findings were published in the British Journal of sports Medicine.

A new paper from the University of Colorado suggests that the research behind that finding is "fatally flawed."

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