Caster Semenya calls out testosterone regulations: 'That's not fairness. That's bulls***'

Two-time Olympic gold medalist Caster Semenya pushed back on the World Athletics stance that its testosterone regulations aren't about one athlete, but are rather about preserving fairness for all during a rare one-on-one interview with Time Magazine.

"That’s not fairness. That’s bulls***," Semenya told the Time. "What athlete in the world ran the 400m to a mile and excelled in this era? And then you’re going to tell me you want to make it about fairness for everyone?"

Semenya has been fighting the regulations since they were first instituted by World Athletics, the governing body for track and field, in 2018. The organization decided that female athletes with differences in sex development who competed in races between the 400m to the mile would need to reduce their natural testosterone levels to compete.

It directly impacted Semenya, who was born a woman, is legally recognized as a woman and has naturally higher testosterone levels. The two-time Olympic gold medalist and three-time world champion in the 800m announced in February she will continue the fight to the European Court of Human Rights, hoping the appeal lands before the Tokyo Olympics. Concurrently she is training for the 5,000-meter race.

Semenya on appeal chances for 800m

To compete in her 800m race, she would need to take medication that lowers her testosterone levels in accordance with the regulations. She said she previously took birth control medication from around 2010-2015 to lower her testosterone, but suffered from side effects like fevers and abdominal pain, per Time. And she doesn't plan on taking any more medication.

She's optimistic her appeal will be accepted.

"This is all about going in there and showing these people that if you are a leader, you need to act in the best interest of the athletes," she told Time. "You must not go out there and try to discriminate or categorize people. At the end of the day, when we enter into an event, you say, I see a woman. You don’t say, I see a woman with high testosterone."

The February appeal states it is to overturn "demeaning and intrusive regulations" made by World Athletics that "require women to undergo humiliating and invasive physical examinations followed by harmful and experimental medical procedures" to compete.

Semenya training for 5,000m at Tokyo

South African long distance athlete Caster Semenya on her way to winning the 5,000 meters at the South African national championships in Pretoria, South Africa, Thursday, April 15, 2021. Semenya said she's likely to focus on long-distance events for the rest of her career. (AP Photo/Christiaan Kotze)
South African long distance athlete Caster Semenya on her way to winning the 5,000 meters at the South African national championships in Pretoria, South Africa, on April 15. (AP Photo/Christiaan Kotze)

Semenya decided to try to qualify for the 5,000-meter in Tokyo rather than the 200m she had originally planned. She said she switched because the shorter distance didn't make sense at her age. And she views continued competition as important.

"Because I feel like I’ve been banned from my greatness," she said. "When you’re an athlete, you have a target. My target was maybe to win certain medals. And then someone decided to stop me because that person sees I’ll be the greatest. I feel like I’m not yet done. I still feel fresh. I still feel young. I cannot walk away if I feel like I can still do this thing."

Two weeks ago she won the South African national championship in the 5,000m, but in a time that's 40 seconds slower than the minimum Olympic standard. Semenya told Time that she shouldn't have an issue shaving that much time off the distance event.

Semenya considers political aspirations

Semenya has said before she's not interested in getting into politics, but now her views have changed. She said she's grown and realized her issue is political because it's about rights and helping people. She reiterated that she is a woman and people are trying to "stop me from being me," making it a human rights issue.

"I’m fighting for other young girls. Young girls from Asia, young girls from Africa, there are a lot of them with DSD. And they are being affected," Semenya told Time. "Instead of supporting those girls and saying they are phenomenal like males, you’re going to say no, they are not human enough. What do you mean? I’m starting to be fascinated by politics because I’ve seen that it’s actually a political move. It’s far off of fairness in sports. Sports is never fair. If you look at basketball, if you look at swimming, then you come to me and you’re going to say, because I’m a different woman, I am not allowed? Bulls***."

She said she won't run for president because no one would like that she stood for the truth.

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