JOHANNESBURG: The lawyer of South Africa’s Olympic 800m champion Caster Semenya, barred from certain races unless she takes hormone suppressants, has told AFP he is preparing to approach the European Court of Human Rights to challenge the ban.
Two-time Olympic gold medallist Semenya has differences of sexual development (DSD), a condition that causes her body to produce elevated testosterone levels.
The World Athletics governing body in 2018 banned Semenya and other DSD athletes from races between 400 metres and a mile unless they take hormone-suppressing drugs.
Semenya, 29, unsuccessfully challenged those rules at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
She then turned to Switzerland’s Supreme Court, which dismissed the appeal last month.
“It didn’t come as a complete surprise,” Semenya’s lawyer Gregory Nott said in an interview on Wednesday, noting that Swiss federal court cases were “very difficult to win”.
“As usual in Caster’s being, she took it very strongly and very well,” he recalled. “She is also up for further fighting.”
Nott said a legal team was preparing the paperwork to take the case before the European court (ECHR) — a process that would take “a few more months”.
Semenya would then decide whether to proceed or not, he added.
“We are merely the horse and she is the jockey, so we listen to what Caster has to say,” said Nott. “She has a mind of her own.”
In its judgement, the Swiss court concluded that the CAS decision “cannot be challenged”.
“Fairness in sport is a legitimate concern,” the court said, adding that the ECHR also attached “particular importance to the aspect of fair competition”.
Nott has represented Semenya since she was forced to undergo gender verification testing to compete against women in the 2009 Berlin world championships.
She won gold in the 800m, aged 18, and was subsequently put on medication to reduce her testosterone levels — spending six months sidelined by World Athletics before returning to competition.
“I see her almost as part of the family,” Nott said. “She means an enormous amount to me… and her cause means a lot not only for herself but to other runners like her.” Semenya was raised as a woman, identifies as a woman and races as a woman.