Lord Coe: Olympic federations were surprised by CAS decision on testosterone

Published: Thursday 11th August 2016 by The News Editor

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Lord Coe reignited what could be one of the most contentious issues at Rio 2016 by saying Olympic federations were “surprised” at the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s decision to suspend the rules on how female athletes with high natural levels of testosterone are treated.

The hyperandrogenism debate has raged ever since South Africa’s Caster Semenya won the 800 metres at the 2009 world athletics championships in Berlin.

It later emerged that the then 18-year-old had been subjected to gender testing – after a shameful trial by media – and was subsequently removed from competition until July 2010.

As a result of her case, the International Association of Athletics Federations, in concert with the International Olympic Committee, brought in rules that set an upper limit for testosterone, which meant so-called “intersex” athletes would need hormone therapy or even surgery to be allowed to compete.

This was done in an attempt to level the playing field for female athletes but was immediately criticised as discrimination by many campaigners on gender issues.

The rules were then challenged at CAS last year by Indian sprinter Dutee Chand, with the Swiss-based court suspending the testosterone limit for two years as it could not see clear evidence that the hormone was a determining factor in athletic performance.

IAAF president Coe, who was speaking after a pre-Games meeting of the athletics’ governing body’s council in Rio, said: ” The Court of Arbitration for Sport questioned whether or not testosterone was an element in performance.

“I don’t think we’re going to breach any confidences when we say, collectively as a sport, we were surprised by that decision.

“I think the IOC was too and I think many other federations are along side us.

“We are, under the chairmanship of (former IOC medical commission chairman) Arne Ljungqvist, looking again at this issue and will be returning to making representations to the court at some point over the next year.

“But we need to remember these are human beings.

“This is a sensitive subject: they are athletes, they are daughters, they are sisters. So we will treat this sensitively and we need to go back to CAS and we have the right people looking at this.”

Coe’s comments come less than a week before Semenya starts her 800m campaign in Rio, with most observers making her one of the strongest pre-race favourites for gold in the entire athletics competition.

Her form has fluctuated since 2009 but she claimed a silver medal in London 2012 behind a Russian athlete who has since been implicated in a doping scandal, which means Semenya may eventually be upgraded.

Last season was a struggle but now, aged 25, is the fastest over the distance this season and at one point was considering an attempt at the 400/800 double.

But with sincere and strong feelings on both sides of the debate – and now confirmation that her federation would like its testosterone limit restored – whatever Semenya achieves in Rio is in danger of being overshadowed by a row beyond her control.

Published: Thursday 11th August 2016 by The News Editor

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