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Level playing field - Blake, Wilson happy with CAS’ testosterone ruling

Published:Thursday | May 2, 2019 | 12:00 AMRobert Bailey/Gleaner Writer

President of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA), Dr Warren Blake and Maurice Wilson, president and founder of Sprintec track club, welcomed yesterday’s landmark ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Caster Semenya’s efforts to fight an IAAF stipulation centred around testosterone levels in female athletes.

Semenya, the South African 800m Olympic champion, had appealed and described as ‘discriminatory’, the IAAF’s requirement for her, and other athletes, who are categorised with differences of sexual development (DSD) due to naturally elevated levels of muscle-building hormone testosterone.

She will now be forced to take suppressant medication if she wishes to compete at international championships in events between the 400m and mile.

The athlete had not lost an 800m race since 2015, and while CAS, in its ruling, concurred that the IAAF was discriminatory towards athletes with DSD, two of the three arbitrators were in agreement with the IAAF’s argument that high testosterone levels in female athletes gives them an advantage in strength and power from puberty and that their stipulation for suppressants was necessary to ensure fairness in competition.

Six-month medication

The IAAF requires that female athletes affected by DSD take medication for a six-month period prior to competition to lower and maintain their testosterone levels. With the IAAF World Championships set for less than five months away in September, Semenya’s participation in this season’s marquee athletics event and her future in the sport are now in jeopardy.

However, when contacted yesterday, Blake told The Gleaner that he is in agreement with the decision taken by the CAS, noting that everyone will now compete with the same levels of testosterone in their bodies, bringing greater fairness to the sport.

“It sort of levels the playing field, and so basically, what it really means is that women will only be competing against women with the same testosterone level among the female range, and as such, according to the CAS commission, we will have a level playing field,” said Blake, who added that the ruling is also a major victory for Jamaica’s middle distance stand-out Natoya Goule, who often competes against Semenya and other DSD athletes in the 800m event.

“This might very well work in her (Goule) favour because as the CAS commissioners ruled, people with high testosterone levels have an advantage. Then they will lose that advantage and it means that people like Natoya Goule and others will be more competitive,” Blake said.

Goule herself was not available for comment while a number of Jamaican athletes, when contacted, declined to speak publicly on the matter.

positive impact

Wilson, who is one of the island’s leading coaches, having led Jamaican teams to multiple Olympics and World Championships, also agrees that the ruling will have a positive impact on the sport and the credibility of results in the outlined events.

“Based on the ruling, what it has suggested to us is that somewhere along the line, some unfair advantage was given to some female athletes if they had a high testosterone level,” said Wilson. “I think it is good for the sport, and it creates a leveller playing field.”

“I think it is encouraging for our athletes not only the middle distances, but in other events where similar situations could occur,” Wilson said.

“I am extremely happy for the ruling because at the end of the day, fair play is the most important thing in my mind in relation to sports.”