IAAF will ignore court on important issue in Semenya case

Track and field’s governing body plans to ignore an important recommendation from the presiding court in the Caster Semenya case, fueling the debate that contentious testosterone-limiting regulations have been introduced to specifically target the South African runner.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that the IAAF could force certain women to lower their testosterone levels in events from 400 meters to the mile. But the court recommended that the IAAF delay enforcing the rules in the 1,500 meters and the mile.

When asked at a news conference in Doha, Qatar, on Thursday if he would heed that advice from sport’s highest court, IAAF president Sebastian Coe gave a one-word answer: “No.”

In Wednesday’s ruling, CAS said its recommendation was made because the IAAF didn’t have sufficient evidence — the court called it “a paucity of evidence” — that the high natural testosterone levels of Semenya and other runners gave them a significant advantage in the 1,500 meters, a race also known as the “metric mile.”

However, it was only a recommendation and not a ruling.

Coe answered two questions related to the case on Thursday, first saying he was “really grateful” to CAS for the ruling. But he declined to answer a third.

“That’s as much as I feel I really need to say on this subject,” Coe said.

Semenya, a two-time Olympic champion in the 800 meters, is expected to run on Friday in Doha for the last time before the IAAF rules start being enforced next week.

The inclusion of the 1,500 meters in the rules is significant because Semenya has used that race as an alternative to her favorite event and has had some success. She won a bronze medal in the 1,500 at the 2017 world championships in London.

If Semenya fails to follow to the new rules, she could run longer distances like the 5,000 meters and not have to medicate. She hasn’t indicated what she will do.

Semenya believes the IAAF is deliberately focusing on her because of her success. She has been dominant over the past three years in the 800 and has improved in the 1,500.

She gave her strongest criticism yet of the IAAF when she said in a statement Wednesday in the wake of the CAS decision that the governing body’s “regulations have always targeted me specifically.”

“For a decade the IAAF has tried to slow me down, but this has actually made me stronger,” she said.

Besides her two Olympic titles, the 28-year-old Semenya is also a three-time world champion in the 800. She has run the fourth, sixth and eighth fastest times ever in the two-lap race.

Following Coe’s terse reply in Doha, the IAAF clarified its stance on keeping the 1,500 under its testosterone rules after a request for comment from The Associated Press.

“We have enough evidence from the field across all the disciplines covered by our regulations so they will remain included in the regulations,” the IAAF said.

The IAAF conceded it has less data in the 1,500 and mile than it has in the 400 and 800, but “CAS’ decision clearly states that our regulations, as they stand, are necessary, reasonable and proportionate so we will keep them as they are and administer them with care and compassion.”

Coe will be in Doha on Friday when Semenya and another athlete with a high testosterone condition, Olympic silver medalist Francine Niyonsaba, run in the 800 meters.


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