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Caster Semenya says “justice has spoken” after winning discrimination case at European Court of Human Rights

Two-time Olympic 800m champion Caster Semenya has expressed her elation at winning her discrimination case at the European Court of Human Rights, saying “justice has spoken” and “this is only the beginning”.


ECHR, on Tuesday, ruled that the 32-year-old was discriminated against in her long-running legal battle against World Athletics’ DSD regulations as the Swiss government did not afford her “sufficient institutional and procedural safeguards” for her case to be properly heard.

Semenya failed in legal battles at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and the Swiss Federal Court, before filing a lawsuit in February 2021 at Europe’s top human rights court asking that the Strasbourg court find that “Switzerland has failed in its positive obligations to protect her against the violation of her rights.”


Semenya said in a statement on Wednesday that the ECHR’s decision “has been a long time coming.”

The middle-distance runner has a medical condition known as hyperandrogenism – characterised by higher than usual levels of testosterone – and has been fighting against the World Athletic’s DSD regulations which came into effect in 2019 and require her to lower her testosterone levels.

Due to her refusal to take hormone-surpressing drugs, Semenya has not been ineligible to compete at her favoured distance since then.

“I am elated at the outcome of the ruling. It has been a long time coming,” Semenya said.

“I have and will always stand up for discrimination of any kind in sports. I have suffered a lot at the hands of the powers that be and have been treated poorly.

Caster Semenya of South Africa celebrates winning gold in the Women’s 1500m final during the Athletics day 6 of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

“The hard work that I have put in to being the athlete I am, has been questioned. My rights violated. My career impacted. All of it so damaging. Mentally, emotionally, physically and financially.”


According to Reuters, the Swiss government plans to refer Tuesday’s ruling to the ECHR Grand Chamber for review and the process could take up to two years.

In a statement on Tuesday, World Athletics said it will encourage the Swiss government to seek referral of the case for “a final and definitive decision”


The ECHR said World Athletics’ regulations were a “source of discrimination” for Semenya and her complaints were “substantiated and credible”, however “the Court was unable to determine whether the DSD Regulations, as applied in the applicant’s case, could be considered a measure that was objective and proportionate to the aim pursued.”

The judgment will not allow Semenya to compete over 800m, but the South African has taken it as a significant step in her fight.


“Justice has spoken but this is only the beginning,” Semenya said.

“My case at the European Court of Human Rights was against the ruling handed down by the government of Switzerland, and not World Athletics itself, but this decision will still be significant for all sportspersons in throwing doubt on the future of all similar rules.

“My hope is that Word Athletics, and indeed all sporting bodies, reflect on the statements made by the European Court of Human Rights and ensure that they respect the dignity and human rights of the athletes they deal with.”


World Athletics told Reuters in a statement on Wednesday:

“As the global governing body of athletics, we must and do consider the human rights of all our athletes. Sport regulations by their very nature restrict people’s rights.

“When those rights are in conflict, it is our duty to decide if that restriction justifies the aim, which in this case is to protect female sport.

Credit: AIPS Media 

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