Semenya hits out at discrimination
South African storms to gold medal in 800m Controversy continues over testosterone levels
Caster Semenya urged everyone to stop focusing on “how people look” after overcoming controversy to win Olympic 800 metres gold on Saturday night.
Semenya, who has become a reluctant poster girl for hyperandrogenism, stormed to victory in a personal-best time of 1 min 55.28 sec ahead of Burundi’s Francine Niyonsaba and Margaret Wambui, of Kenya. All three declined to confirm whether they had been affected by the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s decision to overturn regulations forcing female athletes with excessive testosterone levels to take hormone-suppressing medication.
Semenya, 25, has been unbeatable since the ruling came into effect last year, but she urged people to look beyond physical appearances and focus on ability alone.
“It is not about discriminating against people,” she said. “It is not about looking at how people look, how they speak, how they run. It is not about being muscular.
“When you walk out of your apartment you think about performing, not what your opponent looks like. You just want to do better. We are here to focus on performance, not the IAAF [International Association of Athletics Federations] or speculation.”
Semenya’s future remains unclear with the IAAF due to return to the CAS before the start of next season with evidence it hopes will prove excessive testosterone equates to improved performance. If successful, that could result in the hormone-lowering regulations being put back in place.
Speaking immediately after the race Lynsey Sharp, who set a personal best time of 1 min 57.69 sec to finish sixth, described the situation as “difficult”.
“I have tried to avoid the issue all year,” she said. “You can see how emotional it all was. We know how each other feels. It is out of our control and how much we rely on people at the top sorting it out. The public can see how difficult it is with the change of rule but all we can do is give it our best.
“I was coming down the home straight, we were not far away and you can see how close it is. That is encouraging. We will work hard and aim to come back even stronger.”
Fellow British athlete Nigel Levine was less subtle in his criticism of the situation when he commented on suggestions that three women in the Olympic 800m final have excess testosterone due to hyperandrogenism.
“Happy for Lynsey Sharp for coming third in the women 800m,” he wrote on Twitter, before later deleting his post.