The governing body of track and field will not apply rules to limit natural testosterone levels in female runners until the Court of Arbitration for Sport concludes an appeal case brought by South Africa’s Olympic champion Caster Semenya.
The IAAF said it agreed to postpone the intended 1 November start for eligibility rules until CAS gives a verdict ‘expected on or before’ 26 March. That target date is six months and two days before the start of the 2019 world championships in Doha, Qatar.
If the IAAF’s rules for athletes with differences of sex development (DSD) are upheld by the court, female runners will be forced to medicate to reduce their testosterone levels for six months before racing internationally from 400m through the mile.
Semenya is the current 800m world champion and a likely favourite for a fourth world title to add to her two Olympic gold medals. She also took bronze in the 1 500m at the 2017 worlds in London.
The IAAF expects a February appeal hearing for Semenya, who could have sought an interim ruling from CAS to freeze the rules if the track body pressed ahead with its planned start date.
‘The IAAF remains very confident of the legal, scientific, and ethical bases for the regulations, and therefore fully expects the Court of Arbitration for Sport to reject these challenges,’ the Monaco-based organisation said.
The revised timetable could wreck the outdoor track season for Semenya and other runners with high natural testosterone levels who do not opt to begin medicating before the verdict. If Semenya’s appeal is dismissed, she would be ineligible for the entire circuit of top-tier Diamond League meetings, which run from May to September.
The IAAF said it was ready to ‘receive biological results from individual athletes with DSDs.’
‘Athletes wishing to begin their six-month period sooner than the end of March should contact me directly,’ health and science director Stephane Bermon said in an IAAF statement.
Athletics South Africa welcomed the decision to postpone the implementation of the new IAAF classification rules. ASA, who are challenging the IAAF on the new regulations at CAS, had also made an application to have them suspended pending the completion of the hearing by CAS of the appeal.
In statement, ASA said it ‘is very pleased with the outcome and accordingly thank the legal teams of ASA and that of athlete Caster Semenya for the hard work done to date.The ASA appeal of the regulations is based on a number of points including its discriminatory effect on female athletes like Semenya. The South African legal team will also argue that the medical data relied upon by the IAAF is flawed.’
Photo: Semenya during the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games in April, Getty Images.