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SASOP – Caster Semenya

April 2019



The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) proposed rule on testosterone limits for female athletes is medically unethical, a violation of human rights, and fails to recognise the evidence for natural variations in human gender, says South Africa’s professional body for psychiatry.

The South African Society of Psychiatry (SASOP) said gender verification technologies had revealed “a broad diversity of anatomical, genetic, and hormonal conditions that go beyond binary gender as applied in sport and make eligibility rulings based on anatomical or chromosomally assigned sex impossible”.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) is expected to rule at the end of April on double Olympic gold medallist Caster Semenya’s challenge to the IAAF’s rule change to force suppression of hyperandrogenic female athletes’ naturally high testosterone levels in order to be allowed to compete.

SASOP spokesperson Dr Anusha Lachman said the IAAF stance contributed to discrimination and stigma attached to naturally occurring differences in gender and sexual identity, sexual development and orientation.

“Such discrimination deprives people with differences in sexual development (DSD) of their basic human rights, limiting them in achieving personal, social and occupational fulfilment, and can lead to their marginalisation from society.

“The IAAF rule is being imposed on questionable grounds of ‘health’ and has no basis in scientific fact. Forcing athletes to medically alter naturally occurring hormones ignores the potential negative consequences on their physical and mental health, and is an invasion of their privacy and right to dignity,” Dr Lachman said.

She said the IAAF was violating the long-standing principle that athletes compete on the basis of natural talent by “imposing an artificial intervention to alter their natural ability”.

SASOP supports the South African government’s #NaturallySuperior campaign to back Semenya in her fight to compete in her natural state, Dr Lachman said.

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