The Life of Intersex Runner Caster Semenya

Caster Semenya is an Olympic gold medalist — but she was recently barred from competing at the next IAAF World Athletics Championships because of her testosterone levels. This is her story. 👟

Quick decisions on “someone looks like a man”

An Olympic champion who has hyperandrogenism, Caster Semenya was born in 1991, in South Africa. As a child, she played soccer but later switched to track and field. At the age of 18, she was noticed at the IAAF World Championships in Athletics in Berlin. Her appearance, deep voice and performance surprised many. She was suspected of being a man. The International Association of Athletics Federations conducted “femininity testing” on her.

Nick Davis IAAF spokesman states, “There is a protocol, it’s the IOC’s protocol, the Olympic sport protocol, on gender verification. And that’s why it’s so rigorous and so important to do the tests and not to make quick judgements, quick decisions on “someone looks like a man; therefore, they must be a man.” In August 2010, the verdict came: she is intersex and has hyperandrogenism — which means her body produces a high level of testosterone.”

Starting in 2009 for 2 years, the Federation and the Court of Arbitration for Sport clashed over draft legislation that could prevent her from competing or require her to undergo hormone treatment. In January 2017, she renewed her vows to her partner, Violet Raseboya, who she’d married in a traditional ceremony in 2015. A few months later, she won her 3rd title for the 800 meters and won the bronze medal for the 1,500 meters in the World Championships held in London.

In March 2018, she earned a degree in Sports Science. In May 2019, the International Association of Athletics Federations introduced a regulation requiring female athletes with hyperandrogenism to undergo treatment to lower their testosterone level before they can compete in races ranging from 400 meters to a mile. In July 2019, despite the appeals Semenya submitted to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and the Swiss Supreme Court, the Federation’s regulation held. Semenya was barred from competing and will not be able to participate in the World Championships taking place this September in Qatar.