Mon | Dec 10, 2018

New testosterone level rules for female athletes - IAAF

Published:Friday | April 27, 2018 | 12:25 AM


The IAAF has announced new rules for female athletes with high natural testosterone levels, which could force two-time Olympic 800m champion Caster Semenya to stop running middle-distance races.
From November 1, the IAAF will limit entry into all international events from the 400m through the mile to women with testosterone levels below a specified level.

Women with elevated testosterone must reduce their level for “six months (e.g., by use of hormonal contraceptives)” before being eligible to run and maintain that lowered level.

“We have a responsibility to ensure a level playing field for athletes ... where success is determined by talent, dedication and hard work rather than other contributing factors,” IAAF President Sebastian Coe said in a statement. “Our evidence and data show that testosterone, either naturally produced or artificially inserted into the body, provides significant performance advantages in female athletes.”

Semenya now faces taking daily medication or starting at 5000m. Without the rules, the 27-year-old South African would likely defend her 800m world title in Doha, Qatar, next year. She also took bronze in the 1500m at the 2017 World Championships in London.

In 2011, the IAAF enacted a rule to force athletes with hyperandrogenism to artificially lower their testosterone levels to be eligible to compete. Two years earlier, Semenya clocked a 1.55min time to win her first world title as a teenager in Berlin. While the previous rules were enforced, her season-best times were around 1:59 or slower.

The previous rules were challenged at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS)by sprinter Dutee Chand of India and overturned before the 2016 Olympics. In Rio de Janeiro, Semenya retained her Olympic title, running 1:55.28.

On her Twitter account Wednesday, Semenya did not comment but posted an image of the statement: “How beautiful it is to stay silent when someone expects you to be enraged.”

The new IAAF rules could yet be challenged at CAS.

Still, the IAAF said yesterday there is “broad medical and scientific consensus, supported by peer-reviewed data and evidence” to back its position.

“There is a performance advantage in female athletes with DSD (Differences of Sexual Development) over the track distances covered by this rule,” Dr Stephane Bermon, who works in the IAAF medical and science department, said in the statement.

Research over a decade showed 7.1 in every 1,000 elite track and field athletes had elevated testosterone levels 140 times greater than the female population.

“The treatment to reduce testosterone levels is a hormone supplement similar to the contraceptive pill taken by millions of women around the world,” Bermon said. “No athlete will be forced to undergo surgery.”