People of color took to Twitter to show their support for track superstar Caster Semenya yesterday (May 1) after the South African track phenom lost her discrimination case against the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). The IAAF issued a statement confirming that CAS upheld its decision to force Semenya to comply with its updated eligibility regulations.
For Semenya to continue to compete in races between 400 meter and a mile at international events, she will have to take drugs to reduce her body’s natural amount of testosterone. From the announcement:
The eligibility conditions require a relevant athlete to reduce her testosterone levels to below 5 nmol/L for a continuous period of at least six months prior to competition in the female classification in a restricted event at an international competition.
In its report, CAS noted that the regulation is discriminatory, but argued that it is “necessary”:
By majority, the CAS panel has dismissed the requests for arbitration considering that the claimants were unable to establish that the DSD Regulations were “invalid.” The panel found that the DSD Regulations are discriminatory but the majority of the panel found that, on the basis of the evidence submitted by the parties, such discrimination is a necessary, reasonable and proportionate means of achieving the IAAF’s aim of preserving the integrity of female athletics in the restricted events.
The policy will go into effect on May 8, 2019. Meanwhile, Semenya’s name trended on Twitter as the world defended her right to compete just as she is:
There is so much to say about the Caster Semanya case: biological essentialism, how Blackness is incompatible with binary notions of gender, how white women engage victimhood as a punitive, anti-black apparatus, and how hegemonic womanhood is operationalised and maintained— lady jade (@divanificent) May 1, 2019
this is sad day. i am heartbroken for caster semenya. the idea that she will be forced to take drugs to reduce the naturally occurring testosterone in her body to appease the likes of paula radcliffe is barbaric. https://t.co/6p0tfewQbq— GIFLord DanielléDASH (@DanielleDASH) May 1, 2019
This is bullshit. That’s *her body.* It’s just her natural body. And bc of the whole history of black women being treated as “not real women,” and bc of some racist, sexist, homo/transphobic officials who’ve already humiliated her, she has to *alter* her body?! How is this right? https://t.co/QQsDl33v7E— N. K. Jemisin (@nkjemisin) May 1, 2019
Many athletes have biological advantages that help them with sport!!! It’s not the only thing that helps them to win!!! Maybe the women who compete against Caster should train harder idk— Wei Ming Kam (@weimingkam) May 1, 2019
Michael Phelps has a body that naturally produces half the lactic acid of an average person, but everyone calls him an amazing athlete. Caster Semenya has a body that naturally produces high testosterone levels and she gets punished. The misogyny and racism of it all is awful.— Penny Moore (@precociouspenny) May 1, 2019
Don’t get it twisted. Caster Semenya is being forced to alter her body because she is Black and excellent. https://t.co/1OuNo86n5B— Chase Strangio (@chasestrangio) May 1, 2019
it makes no sense that the people who believe in “biological sex” are saying that Caster Semenya has to take drugs to achieve appropriate testosterone levels for women if the gender binary is biological, why are we altering women’s biological hormone production to fit into it?— she/her (@obaa_boni) May 1, 2019
In 2009, an 18-year-old Semenya burst on the scene when she became the 800 meter world champion. Then, she was forced to take blood tests to confirm her assigned sex, as Colorlines previously reported. Now at 28, with two 800 meter Olympic gold medals and three world championships, she is still fighting for her right to race.
“I know that the IAAF’s regulations have always targeted me specifically,” Semenya said in a statement, reported by the The Guardian. “For a decade the IAAF has tried to slow me down, but this has actually made me stronger. The decision of the CAS will not hold me back. I will once again rise above and continue to inspire young women and athletes in South Africa and around the world.”