Caster Semenya Makes Public Appeal For Financial Support In Ongoing Legal Battle With World Athletics

Despite pro bono efforts, the estimated expenses are expected to be a staggering $198,000

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After winning gold in the 800m at the 2009 World Championships at just 18 years old, a growing amount of rumors were being put on South Africa’s Caster Semenya, given her performance, muscular body type, and gruff voice.

The situation prompted an investigation by the IAAF (now World Athletics), and Semenya had been asked to take a gender test to confirm she was female. 

“At the moment, the athlete must be given the benefit of the doubt,” Nick Davies, IAAF spokesperson, said to BBC, “The rumors, the gossip was starting to build up.”

Caster Semenya Makes Public Appeal For Financial Support In Ongoing Legal Battle With World Athletics 1
Photo Credit: Citizen59/Flickr

The leaked results of the medical tests determined that Semenya had naturally high testosterone and she was intersex, in which she lacked a uterus and instead possessed male internal sex organs. This was a result of a condition she was born with called 46, XY Differences of Sexual Development.

This would mark the beginning of an uphill battle for Semenya that would take her from World and Olympic podiums to the European Court of Human Rights.

33-year-old double Olympic champion Semenya is now making a fervent appeal for financial assistance as she braces herself for a critical legal confrontation against World Athletics’ testosterone regulations. 

The impending showdown, scheduled for May 15 at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), looms large as Semenya seeks to challenge what she perceives as discriminatory practices against athletes like herself with high natural testosterone levels.

Caster Semenya Makes Public Appeal For Financial Support In Ongoing Legal Battle With World Athletics 2
Photo Credit: Eric van Leeuwen

At a press conference held in Johannesburg, the 33-year-old South African revealed the substantial financial strain her legal battle has imposed. 

We don’t have enough money. We have a lot of experts with us that we have to pay,” Semenya emphasized, stressing the pivotal role of public support in her protracted struggle for justice.

Semenya, who has been embroiled in a decade-long legal saga, contends that the regulations requiring female athletes with naturally elevated testosterone levels to take hormonal contraceptives to lower their natural testosterone violate her dignity and human rights.

The hormonal contraceptives, which Semenya took from 2009 until 2015, made her feel low, so low that at times she struggled to get up.

“I’d describe [the medication’s effects] like this: you’re living every day with a sore body. Your stomach is burning, you’re having panic attacks, you’re sweating. It…it was crazy.” 

These regulations, encapsulated within the Differences of Sexual Development (DSD) rules, have compelled Semenya to shift from her favored 800m distance to the 5,000m race, significantly altering the trajectory of her career.

Caster Semenya Makes Public Appeal For Financial Support In Ongoing Legal Battle With World Athletics 3
Photo Credit: Mara Xingjin

The legal expenses for Semenya’s upcoming hearing at the ECHR are estimated to be a staggering €170,000 ($198,000), a sum her team is grappling to cover. Despite their pro bono efforts, the financial burden remains daunting, prompting Semenya to appeal to the public for assistance.

Last July, Semenya secured a significant legal victory when the ECHR ruled in her favor, affirming that she was a victim of discrimination. 

However, this triumph was tempered by subsequent challenges from Swiss authorities, backed by World Athletics, necessitating further legal battles, culminating in the upcoming hearing before the ECHR’s Grand Chamber.

Although it was determined she was the victim of discrimination, she was still unable to compete as this victory did not have an impact on the current regulations.

Caster Semenya Makes Public Appeal For Financial Support In Ongoing Legal Battle With World Athletics 4
Photo Credit: Eric van Leuwen

Semenya’s battle, which has been ongoing for multiple years, has attracted widespread attention, with her story going beyond her mere athletic abilities and accomplishments, highlighting a broader struggle for equality and fairness in sports. 

As Semenya continues her legal battle against the never-ending regulatory hurdles imposed by World Athletics, the outcome of her upcoming legal battle holds profound implications not only for her own career but also for the future of gender equity in sports. 

With the May hearing on the horizon, Semenya remains determined, buoyed by the solidarity and support of her community and advocates rallying behind her cause.

To learn more about Caster Semenya’s story, click here.

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Jessy has been active her whole life, competing in cross-country, track running, and soccer throughout her undergrad. She pivoted to road cycling after completing her Bachelor of Kinesiology with Nutrition from Acadia University. Jessy is currently a professional road cyclist living and training in Spain.

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