Caster Semenya is training to compete in a different event at next year’s Summer Olympics in Tokyo, but she continues to fight for her right to run the event that built her name. On Tuesday, Semenya’s lawyer confirmed the two-time Olympic champion will file her case in the European Court of Human Rights.
“We will be taking World Athletics to the European Court of Human Rights,” Greg Nott said in a written statement. “We remain hopeful that World Athletics will see the error it has made and reverse the prohibitive rules which restrict Ms. Semenya from competing.”
The conflict centers around a change in regulations by World Athletics passed in 2018. The rule mandates female athletes with Differences in Sexual Development, as defined by World Athletics, who compete in the 400-meter, 800-meter, 1500-meter and 1-mile races must undergo procedures to reduce testosterone levels. The rule would deny Semenya her chance at a third-straight Olympic gold medal in the 800-meter race.
Semenya has lost two previous appeals to overturn the World Athletics regulation . In 2019, she appealed in the Court for Arbitration for Sport. In September 2020, she took her case the Swiss Federal Supreme Court.
Semenya’s case impacts the entire slate of 800-meter runners who stood on the podium at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Along with Semenya, silver medalist Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi and bronze medalist Margaret Wambui of Kenya would all be denied the opportunity to compete in the 800-meter race in next year’s Tokyo Games.
Critics see the ruling as the latest effort from World Athletics to discriminate against athletes from developing nations. “Caster is shining a light on discrimination and systemic racism in the international athletics arena,” Nott wrote in an op-ed Wednesday in the Daily Maverick. “But this fight isn’t just about Caster, but for future generations of young women, particularly young women from the developing world that may not have the resources or access to legally challenge their inclusion at the highest levels of sport.”
Semenya plans to compete in Tokyo next year as a sprinter in the 200-meter event. Off the track, support in her homeland and across Africa remains high. Last week, the South African Parliament and the African Human Rights Commission each passed resolutions supporting her appeal.