Court of Arbitration in Sport Decision: Caster Semenya vs. IAAF

photo credit: Reuters

Full text of the Court’s press release here:

Ruling applies solely to chromosomally male (XY) athletes with disorders of sexual development who compete in female sports. Does not apply to female (XX) athletes, including those with DSDs which result in elevated testosterone levels.

Full 167 page ruling has not been released, citing issues of confidentiality. An executive summary will be released by the Court in the days to follow.

34 thoughts on “Court of Arbitration in Sport Decision: Caster Semenya vs. IAAF

    1. According to the ruling, she has XY chromosomes (and presumably undescended testicles as a result of PAIS). Like many with this condition, she was raised and socialized as female. Chromosomally male individuals with CAIS and PAIS are statistically overrepresented in elite female sport.

      1. I’ve heard that about elite women’s sport. It’s clear to me that DNA tests should be a requirement on that level. I think some of these sports federations know or at least suspect that this is the case.

        1. They do know, because chromosomal sex testing was abandoned precisely because so many formerly unaware female competitors were revealed to be genetically male in the process. It was for this very reason that genetic testing was halted. First in favor of morphological (medical) inspection, and now, following the campaign to allow males who identify as transgender to compete against females based on hormonal status- by testosterone levels. So yes- without a doubt the federations are very aware that genetically male intersex people (raised as girls) are statistically overrepresented in women’s sport.

          1. Oh geez. Why is this not surprising?

            I’ve never been particularly athletic but used to enjoy the Olympics, but all the doping was out of control. I’ve reached the point where I don’t even bother anymore. I suspect that will be the case more and more.

            And that will be a shame because sport is so beneficial for young women and girls in terms as seeing their body as something other than an ornament. It’s one of the best antidotes against sexism so of course it will be corrupted beyond recognition.

            Women’s sports will die if this is not rectified. The line has to be clear—no Y chromosomes, period. Otherwise it’s cheating.

          2. That is one place to draw the line, and perhaps that is where things are heading. It is tricky though, because most of these young women are unaware that they are genetically male. They appear female, they even appear to have a vagina (typically a “blind pouch” absent a cervix, since they have no female reproductive system). They were raised and socialized as female, at maturity they develop breasts, etc.

            And although overrepresented, they generally do not dominate their sports (except for short burst running, and possibly a few others, like javelin throw, hurdles, etc.)

          3. Forcing an athlete to medically handicap themselves in order to compete seems outrageously unethical- far more so than simply disqualifying them.
            Of course, there are other options, such as imposing time handicaps or such which would require neither federation-imposed medical disability or disqualification.

          4. I don’t think it’s that tricky. If the IAAF and IOC allow intersex XYs to compete against women, then they’ll never be able to get TIMs out of women’s sports if, at some point, they finally see sense on that issue. It’s too easy for governments to hide records of a sex change. As an example, South Africa has gone hard defending Semenya, including making charges of racism because apparently it’s impossible to tell the difference between a black male and a black female. Who’s to say South Africa hasn’t hidden records for Semenya’s benefit?

            XY chromosome testing is the single easiest way to keep men out of the women’s division.

      2. Sports competition is not a right. Semenya has no business competing in women’s sports. It is not a complicated issue at all. If you can’t meet the requirements, you can’t compete.

        Women’s sports is not a dumping ground for cheaters. End of story.

      3. XY is male. Undescended testicles is male Women don’t have testicles. End of story. Not complicated. It doesn’t matter if Semenya grew up thinking Semenya is female, the fact is if there is xy chromosomes means Semenya is male, a man.

        There are vast, vast differences physiologically between men and women that go way beyond testosterone and becomes more pronounced in athletic competition. Hemoglobin is the big one, and males are at huge advantage with regard to that. Center of gravity. Bone density. Larger hearts and lungs. A cheater like Semenya cannot be allowed to compete with women.

        Semenya can find another line of work. Semenya has been a cheater for years. The public has the right to having integrity in sports. Taking pity on this cheat has to stop.

  1. I find it hard to believe that most of these athletes didn’t at some point suspect something was wrong. No one checked on them when they never had a menstrual cycle? These are elite athletes. Every aspect of their body is measured and studied to the nth degree. And no one noticed that they don’t menstruate or have vaginas? If I had a daughter I would be majorly concerned if she never had a period and would be seeking medical help.

    1. I am not buying it. Not one bit, not this day and age. There is some misplaced compassion for people who know better than to violate the rules. They do it and they make a mockery out of women’s sports.

      Socialization and being raised “as a girl,” whatever that means, does not alter biology. Men and women are hugely different in athletics. Hugely different. None of it can be altered.

  2. The structure of the male pelvis is vastly superior to the female one when it comes to bipedal locomotion. Caster Semenya has always had a male pelvis. The male pelvis is square-shaped, i.e. the iliac crest and the femur are on the same vertical level. The female pelvis is trapezoid-shaped and even in very muscular and fit females, the head of the femur is further out than the iliac crest.

    In a sport like running this gives a person with a male pelvis a HUGE advantage. Hormones, or the lack of them, doesn’t alter the structure of someone’s skeleton.

  3. The most important thing to know about this case is, thanks to the UK’s Sunday Times, Caster Semenya is not a female with DSD. Semenya is a MALE who allegedly has DSD. His lawyers admitted it. Big difference. It doesn’t matter if Semenya was “raised as a girl,” whatever that means, or what he believes himself to be, or what his exact medical condition is, if any. He is a MALE, a MAN, and he has NO business whatsoever competing against women. This is disqualifying, and he is a CHEATER for having committed fraud in the Olympics and other events. Socialization makes no difference regarding the massive physiological differences between men and women. The fact he is a man has been covered up by the media and even by the arbitration panel. THIS is the reason Semenya refused to release his medical records. I seriously doubt he never knew he was a man throughout his life up to the time he went into elite competition. I suspect his parents and his doctors were in on the fraud all along. He is only 28, and his parents HAD to have known he was male from the time he was born no matter if he had a DSD. Semenya, for his part–and yes, I will use the correct pronouns for this faker–knew he wasn’t good enough to compete against elite male athletes, so he decided to go the easy route, just like the faker “trans women” in the Connecticut track competition, and compete against women, thus being famous and rich through endorsements as he has never been beaten.

    This is not somebody who should be supported in any manner, shape, or form by feminists, by anybody concerned with the trans issue even though Semenya isn’t trans. He is simply a fraud who committed fraud. He is not worthy of sympathy or pity but scorn and disgust. He is not the first male to compete fraudulently, and he won’t be the last.

  4. We already know its unfair to biological women when trans males are allowed to compete. Intersex and trans people should have their own biologcal categories in sports. It seems Semenya may have secondary male characteristics and might be intersex, this is what she should be tested for. I think people who have conditions like this should be individully tested to see what their natural hormone levels are before being allowed to to compete. Semenya also claimed she was given ‘vitamins’ , which were probably steroids, without knowing what they were. If someone gives you vitamins. You watch your body physcially change, get stronger, and your not linking those things together is deliberately ignorant.

    Another example of a female athlete who claimed excerise and ‘vitamins’ is a result of her success and physcial appearance and strength who was never officially tested. Her and two other athletes including Semenya are the only ones to have high records in this sport category.

    Jarmila Kratochvilova

    Call out all athletes and trans people with unfair advantage

    Jarmila Kratochvilova Doping Controversy

    1. The Kratochvilova case is about doping, not biological sex and from what I have read about that era in sports many female athletes from Iron Curtain countries were dosed without their knowledge or consent starting at quite young ages (they were taken from their families and sent to residential sports academies). This was at least the case for East German swimmers, some of whom went on to suffer infertility and health problems as a result. That history is different from the Semenya case.

  5. While being androgen insensitive as a male is an advantage over females, it is a disadvantage compared to males who don’t have the condition. That really seems like the kind of thing the special olympics were created for, isn’t it? I thought they created the special olympics (in part) for people with developmental disorders (and also people who have been in accidents etc).

        1. I don’t have time to read his whole thread(s) now but long story short:
          While exogenous testosterone is a known performance enhancer for both male and female athletes, it is not entirely clear that the over representation of intersex athletes in female elite competition is a result of elevated testosterone levels.
          For example, a significant number of women have elevated testosterone levels for various reasons (ex: PCOS present in 10% of female population). They have high T in blood levels and functional T receptors to capacitate muscle building on the basis of those elevated levels.
          But XY athletes with high testosterone are competing as female precisely because they do not have functional T receptors and are unable to metabolize testosterone (which is why they failed to develop reproductively and physically as typical males). Therefore to some degree their testosterone levels are irrelevant. What is relevant to the question of testosterone as a marker of their potential advantage over actual females is the extent to which their body is able to metabolize the substance (in a chromosomal male body). Some XY individuals (Ex: those with Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome) are unable to metabolize any testosterone at all, so their blood testosterone levels are completely irrelevant as a useful marker for potential advantage over female athletes.

          1. Thanks. I trust your judgement on this.

            I wish they’d stop calling him she. And I don’t for a minute believe he and his parents and coach did not know. They saw him as a sure thing.

          2. I remember reading that article in the New Yorker when it first came out. At the time I thought Semenya was an XX DSD because my understanding of intersex conditions was limited. Now that I understand that he’s actually a male my opinion has drastically changed.

            Whether Semenya knew as an 18 year old he certainly has known for the past ten years and tried to continue a myth. By being coy (and with a complicit media) he has perpetuated a lie. A lie that if allowed to continue would’ve destroyed women’s sports.

          3. This is a complex area, and cannot and should not be allowed to let males compete in female sports. DSD conditions nor athletes should not be used as pawns by trans, but they are and this muddies the waters considerably.

            The issues of DSD athletes really need to be assessed on a case by case basis depending on various factor, including consideration of the particular condition they have and whether they have a performance advantage. The way it works in this case is generally chromosomes and anatomy go together and the foetus will develop down one of the two pathways (male or female) but in this case there is blockage of testosterone and the foetus will go down the default female pathway in the case of CAIS or variably so with PAIS depending on the amount of sensitivity to androgens. In which case much of the time these people could be regarded as female, or at least anatomically so if looking externally . Other times, like Dutee Chand the person is XX but has a condition like CAH which affects androgen levels. It’s really important to note these athletes are not doping nor cheating because any androgens they produce are endogenous and like being tall or other physical advantages is something they are just born with and which might give them some extra abilities. Nor can they be competitive with men, they may have some advantages related to their condition but this does not give male performance levels.

            Noticably both the cited cases (one in the comments) do best in events from 200-800m, but not in the sprint and not in longer distance events, hence they’ve limited any limits on testosterone to those events only. Any competitive advantage over other women is fairly limited and only for specific events. I just feel sad for them, those athletes deserve a lot better from sports authorities and when discussing those issues.

          4. Hi Gallus, late to the party, I’m always the last to figure out stuff so I’m glad to hear you’re back.

            Re: the specific focus on middle distance events

            I think a lot of journalists (and even a lot of commentors) are giving undue focus on the weirdness of the 800m in particular, just because it happens to be Semenya’s forte. It feels like a “retcon” to fit a storyline.

            The 800m is weird. It straddles the divide between anaerobic and aerobic activity. When you train for it as a NCAA D1 athlete (at least 20 years ago), you mostly just trained for general fitness, with 3/4s of the people involved also being part of the cross country team. We’d break the race up into quarters and basically practice running 28 second 200m’s for an hour or two, EVERY DAY, to make sure we knew exactly what running a 28 second 200m felt like compared to a 27 second 200m or a 29 second 200m, to the point where you could feel the exact difference in your bones.

            OTOH, no one starts out saying “I want to run the 800m.” Everyone wants to be Usain Bolt and jerk off all day and show up and be the fastest person on the planet in 10 seconds of effort. (Bolt has evidently never run a complete mile to this day.) It’s only when you learn that you can’t do that that you grow the fuck up and do something else.

            So at the high school level 800m runners are:

            1.) kids who DO win at 400m and want to pick up an additional win but can’t go down to 200m (this is rare, it’s basically only someone who is terrified of starting blocks or doesn’t have time to learn them because track is just a way of keeping in shape for a “real sport” )

            2.) kids who can’t win at 400m but are “conventionally athletic” enough to sometimes win at 800m by powering through it. Even when they win the event they’ll be all theatrical and fall over at the finish line in a huff because they actually DID power through it.

            3.) kids who were forced into running long distance (NERDS!) who begin to think they can beat the mesomorphs (#2) through hard work and by converting a higher percentage of the 800m into aerobic activity

            It’s #3 that tends to go on to run the 800m in college but that’s not necessarily because they’re built for it but because that’s where their opportunities are since they aren’t doing other sports. Plus the tendency towards hard work and the fact that there’s a void when it comes to people who actually want to do it.

            I can’t guarantee that anything I’ve said above is a scientific fact, or even reasonable theory-crafting based on my own experiences, only that we don’t know how or why the people who do any of this stuff actually DO THIS STUFF so it’s even more crazy to propose that the 800m is the place where testosterone or even pre-hormonal genetic programming (I have no idea what the correct verbiage is for that!) has the most impact. We don’t even know what we don’t know at this point.

            But saying that the 800m is the place where those advantages factor in the largest feels like a bit of a retcon to fit a specific scenario (Semenya) when world record analysis tends to show a fairly flat 10% drop off between sexes across almost every olympic event (although those records could be influenced by XY individuals competing as women?).

            I think they’re asserting something currently unprovable by deciding that middle distance is where the genetic oddities triumph because it’s a bit like saying “white people are genetically predisposed to snowboarding, it might be a hormone they’re exposed to in utero.” Because there’s a sorting mechanism beyond intrinsic talent that goes into placing people into any of these events in the first place. People act like track is capital-B basic and even democratic but events have a social hierarchy, racialized dynamics, and all sorts of weirdness.

            To me, this focus is just another arbitrary distinction like being on hormone therapy for two years makes a trans woman biologically female. There’s no research to sustain this but the people with the right credentials came up with a just so story and all the right people believed them.

            It’d be just as easy for me to suspect that XY “girls” tend to show up as #2 in my schema for people who run the 800. But I also freely admit that judgement could be complete bullshit and my entire schema is as well; I’m fairly confident in asserting that I don’t know things.

  6. I just read a very good article about this and it brings up something I hadn’t considered. I thought simply limiting women’s sports to XX should resolve the matter. But then there’s trans men. As we’ve seen with that wrestler in Texas, juiced up females would be a problem. Of course they could simply state XX only with testosterone at a certain level. But at least it makes a little more sense.

    1. “As we’ve seen with that wrestler in Texas, juiced up females would be a problem. Of course they could simply state XX only with testosterone at a certain level…”

      And they certainly will- according to officials in Texas, Mack Beggs never requested to transfer to the boys league:

      “Beggs’ family has repeatedly said he wants to wrestle boys, but state competition rules won’t allow it. The birth certificate rule was approved in 2016 by the University Interscholastic League, the governing body for Texas high school sports. It was done to help schools determine competition, said Jamie Harrison, the UIL’s deputy director.

      “The UIL is not in the gender-determining business and schools don’t want to be either,” Harrison said.

      Harrison said the UIL is willing to consider making exceptions to competition rules if asked. The UIL has not received a request from the Beggs family or his school to allow him to wrestle boys, Harrison said. And despite the national attention Beggs’ drew last year, the UIL wouldn’t initiate a move to let him wrestle boys unless asked, Harrison said.

      “We don’t think it would be appropriate to initiate,” Harrison said. “We don’t make value judgments. That’s a matter for a person and their family to decide.”

      McNew said the family didn’t ask because the birth certificate rule is clear that Beggs must wrestle as a girl.”

      Texas Transgender Wrestler Back To Defend State Title

      What Beggs did instead is take advantage of a rule which allows student athletes to take performance enhancing drugs if they are ordered by a physician for a “medical” reason. She justified this to herself by taking a lower dose of testosterone than is typical for transgender females to take:

      “The Trinity junior said in a portion of the interview for ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” that aired Thursday that he was “holding back because of wrestling” on taking testosterone as he transitions from female to male.

      “I want to be at a fair competitive edge with all of these girls,” Beggs said. “So I know they want to pursue wrestling career and I want to pursue a wrestling career, so I want to do it fairly.

      “I don’t want to cheat. That’s not something that I do.”

      Beggs said he told his doctor “to give me enough testosterone to where I’m happy with it, where I can see changes, but also to where it’s under the 6 to 1 ratio under the steroid list for testing. And so she gave me the lowest dose possible.”

      According to a University Interscholastic League steroid testing manual from 2011-12 that is online, a positive result for testosterone can occur “if the ratio of the total concentration of testosterone to that of epitestosterone in the urine is greater than 6:1.”

      So, Mack Beggs already did precisely what you’re suggesting other females may do.

      (Usually low dose testosterone is administered to females who identify as transgender via a transdermal cream, in which case precautions must be taken to limit skin-to-skin contact with others since the medication is easily spread via touch. This introduces an additional factor of potential risk to other competitors. It is not uncommon for female partners of women using transdermal testosterone cream to sprout mustaches or experience clitoral growth through unintended contact. It is unknown if Beggs used this method and what precautions were taken if any if she did, but certainly competitors were never informed of this risk if she did.)

      1. Holy cow! I cannot believe the news media simply took the parents word for it! Just like those parents in Connecticut totally complicit in their children’s cheating.

        Having had kids in club soccer and Little League nothing these crazy ass parents do surprise me anymore. But goddamnit the news media needs to do their freaking jobs! I thought the whole ‘they won’t let her wrestle boys’ spiel sounded suspicious but it never occurred to me that the media would let them get away with flat out lying!

        As for transdermal transmission that’s a major concern. A friend was on testosterone for a while after cancer treatment and was told to avoid having sex with his wife for fear of transmission! Fortunately he was only on it for a brief period, but you know it has to be serious if they told a man to avoid sex! With a close contact sport like wrestling transmission is very likely. This girl has no business wrestling girls while she’s juicing.

        So yeah, XX with a testosterone cap for women’s competition. And an open category for everyone else.

  7. Chromosome testing needs to be brought back to women’s events so these cheaters, no matter if they are trans or so-called “intersex” or, more accurately DSD males, will not be allowed to cheat. All y-chromosome athletes should be barred from women’s sports. In the end, there is not a dime’s worth of difference between fraud Caster Semenya and a trans cheat like “Rachel” McKinnon. They are all men who have competed fraudulently, but Semenya is worse because he has lied and covered up for years, and the IOC and most of the media likewise have covered up for him. Women cannot afford to take this garbage anymore from these cheaters and their supporters who are out to destroy women’s sports.

    As I haven’t closely followed the recent guidelines, I strongly suspect the impetus for the IOC changing the rules on testosterone was the 2016 Olympic 800-meter event, women’s, when the top three finishers appear to have been outright frauds and not “intersex” women. The women shut out of the medals must have complained about it. The other two top finishers with Semenya should also be chromosomally tested. If xy, they should get booted out of women’s events also.

    I have no tolerance for cheaters whatsoever. Men don’t belong in women’s events. End of story.

  8. Wow Gallusmag, So there’s now a cream that trans people can take that they can infect other people unknowingly with, passing on unwanted side effects and health risks. This is outrageous and why is this not illegal. There’s already artificial drugs they can administer by needle or possibly digest I think that’s available. This is deliberate human rights abuse.

    Any biological male and female athletes should legally be allowed to compete wihout being forced to take artificial drugs that contain health risks. A MAJOR thing that No one’s questioning is why FTM women are not allowed to compete in pro male sports or taking top spots and getting million dollar contracts. Why aren’t FTM people protesting pro male sports like they inserted into most women and lesbian groups and events.

    Another MAJOR is males claiming women title are legally allowed to compete in womens’ sports both without hormones and surgery, and with hormones and surgery. Other countries that train people to be top athletes and knowingly and unknowingly administer their athletes with steroids and other performance enhancement drugs or cheaters too.

  9. If as is rumored everyone on the podium in Rio in the women’s 800 was actually an XY DSD it’s clear why they had to rule as they did. I assume that athletic federations are already actively recruiting them. Countries like China which is well-known for cheating and has a dense population to choose from could could create whole teams of 46 XY.

  10. Welcome back, GallusMag. I previously accepted that Caster Semenya was female. Now that I know better, I agree with his ban. He was born a male, and the fact that he was raised as female, doesn’t change that biological fact.

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