#LetHerRun campaign backs Caster Semenya

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Johannesburg - A coalition of renowned former athletes, sports scientists and doctors has launched a campaign dubbed #LetHerRun to pressure World Athletics to reverse its decision to ban Caster Semenya and other female athletes with naturally high levels of testosterone from competing in certain events unless they take medication.

The #LetHerRun movement was launched recently out of San Paulo, Brazil after Semenya lost her appeal against the World Athletics ruling at the Swiss Supreme Court earlier this month.

Organisers of the #LetHerRun movement say they are fighting for Semenya and other athletes, including Burundi's Francine Niyonsaba and Margaret Wambui of Kenya.

Brazil's Jackie Silva, who won the inaugural Olympic beach volleyball gold medal with partner Sandra Pires at Atlanta in 1996, said, "Caster’s case deserves our attention because it affects the destiny of dozens of other athletes who will have their careers ended prematurely simply because they were born out of the standards imposed by technocrats from a regulatory agency.

“Why hasn’t the natural hormone production invalidated any male career ever? Has anyone stopped to compare Usain Bolt’s levels of testosterone to those of Justin Gatlin, for instance?" asked Silva.

#LetHerRun has produced a video illustrating the humiliation female athletes endured to compete in the 1960s, portraying a Spanish sprinter who has to strip nude in front of a panel of physicians to undergo an examination to prove she’s female.

Back then, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) would make female athletes walk naked in front of physicians, a mortification known as a “nude parade”, to verify the presence of female genitalia.

Silva said World Athletics’ ruling was a continuation of such antiquated sexist policies.

Katia Rubio from the Physical Education and Sports School at the University of Sao Paulo said, “The history of Olympic sports is paved with big events of overcoming obstacles that inspire human improvement.  But the case of Caster is a betrayal of this heritage. It is a step back that belittles the Olympic dream of solidarity and inclusion. I hope we don’t see this mistake happening again in some decades from now.”

In South Africa, Sport, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthetwha called on Africans to rally behind Semenya.

The Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) and the South African Human Rights Commission this week said they would petition the United Nations and the African Union over the issue. 

"The matter … is more than an individual fight for Semenya, but one that affects black women in developing countries. It is about restoring her human dignity and rights to participate and have income from sport, as well as (the) rights of other athletes, who have also been discriminated and prejudiced by the new International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) discriminatory regulations that came to effect in 2019," said CGE spokesperson Javu Baloyi.

Semenya - the 800m champion at the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympic Games - had previously appealed unsuccessfully appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The Swiss court’s ruling means Semenya will not defend her Olympic crown at the postponed Tokyo 2020 Games.

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