Like ‘stabbing yourself with a knife’: Caster Semenya opens up about being forced to take testosterone-lowering medication

Dual Olympic 800 metres champion Caster Semenya has likened taking medication to lower her testosterone levels to “stabbing yourself with a knife every day”.

Semenya, 31, burst onto the athletics scene in 2009 when she won the women’s 800m world title by a significant margin.

Hours later, World Athletics — the sport’s world governing body — announced that there would be an inquiry into the result, and said she would undergo “gender verification” tests.

“They thought I had a [penis], probably, Semenya said in an interview with HBO’s Real Sports.

Asked if they looked at her naked, Semenya said:

“Yes of course. I told them: ‘It’s fine. I’m a female, I don’t care. If you want to see I’m a woman, I will show you my vagina, alright?'”


Those tests reportedly showed that Semenya has a condition known as hyperandrogenism, which is characterised by higher than usual levels of testosterone.

It has also been widely reported that Semenya is intersex.

World Athletics subsequently ruled that Semenya — and other female athletes with hyperandrogenism — would have to take hormones to lower her testosterone levels.

Caster Semenya won gold in the women’s 800m event at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in 2018. (AAP: Darren England)

“But I had no choice. I [was] 18, I wanted to run, I wanted to make it to the Olympics, that was the only option for me, I had to make it work.”

World Athletics lawyer Jonathan Taylor told HBO that he disagreed with medical panels, including the World Medical Association, all of which have since condemned World Athletics’ ruling.

“[If] you say medically it’s not healthy, then my question back to you is: ‘Why do the world’s leading experts say that that is what we would prescribe?'” said Taylor.

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