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 says she offered to show her genitalia to World Athletics officials during invasive ‘gender verification’ testing
- The dual Olympic champion has hyperandrogenism, a condition which leads to naturally higher testosterone levels
- She said being forced to take testosterone lowering medication ‘made her sick’ and gave her panic attacks
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.
“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.
“Jonathan must cut his tongue and throw it away,” said Semenya of the comments.
In 2020, Semenya lost her appeal to the Swiss Federal Tribunal to set aside a 2019 Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruling that intersex women with naturally high testosterone levels must take medication to reduce their testosterone levels.
She had approached the tribunal after CAS ruled that the regulations of World Athletics were necessary for female intersex athletes in races ranging from 400 metres to a mile to ensure fair competition.
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