Canada’s athletics federation called on Monday for a rigorous review of a new IAAF hyperandrogenism rule.
“Athletics Canada has serious concerns with last week’s announcement from the IAAF regarding hyperandrogenism testing,” the federation said in a statement.
The new regulations by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) lay down a series of criteria for female or intersex athletes with a ‘Difference of Sexual Development (DSD)’ to be eligible to compete internationally in certain ‘restricted’ events where they may have an unfair advantage.
“We have seen in a decade and more of research that 7.1 in every 1000 elite female athletes in our sport have elevated testosterone levels,” said Dr Stephane Bermon from the IAAF Medical and Science Department.
The new regulations would prevent female athletes like South African double Olympic champion Caster Semenya from competing in 800m and 1500m races.
“In Canada, we encourage the full access for all Canadians to participate and compete in athletics at every level of our sport, free of discrimination,” the federation said.
“Athletics Canada believes in the principles of inclusion, respect, and health and safety.”
The federation said it planned to review the eligibility rule in detail and hold discussions with government officials and other national sports organisations.
“We believe this IAAF eligibility ruling requires rigorous review,” it said.
The new rule goes into effect in November unless overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
Athletics authorities have struggled to find a solution to the issue that respected the rights of Semenya while also providing what they say is a “level playing field.”
Some female rivals had complained that the 27-year-old’s hyperandrogenism gave her an unfair competitive advantage. The condition is characterised by higher than usual levels of testosterone, a hormone that increases muscle mass, strength and haemoglobin, which affects endurance.
To compete internationally, athletes with a DSD must:
- Be recognised at law either as female or as intersex (or equivalent);
- Must reduce her blood testosterone level to below five (5) nmol/L for a continuous period of at least six months (e.g., by use of hormonal contraceptives);
- Thereafter she must maintain her blood testosterone level below five (5) nmol/L continuously.
The rule applies to ‘restricted’ events from 400m to the mile, including 400m, hurdles races, 800m, 1500m, one-mile races and combined events over the same distances.
It effectively gives Semenya a choice of taking medication to restrict her testosterone, or if she did not want to lower her testosterone levels, the option to move to longer distance events or to compete in the men’s or intersex competitions.
The IAAF’s previous attempts to regulate the issue fell foul of a Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling in 2015 following an appeal on behalf of Indian athlete Dutee Chand, who had been banned from competing because of her testosterone levels.
IAAF President Sebastian Coe has previously said nobody was suggesting Semenya had done anything wrong.
Athletics South Africa said last week it would study the new regulations and compare them with the CAS recommendations to see if they are compatible and in line.
“We will further seek support from the Minister of Sport and Recreation, SASCOC, other expert institutions and relevant organisations or individuals, so that we have a full grasp of this matter and how it should be properly handled,” it said.
By Gene Cherry