South African parliament rallies behind Caster Semenya
South Africa’s parliament threw its weight behind Olympic champion Caster Semenya Thursday as she awaits a landmark ruling on whether female athletes can be required to lower their testosterone.
Semenya last week went to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne to challenge the International Association of Athletics Federations’ proposed rules forcing “hyper-androginous” athletes to lower their testosterone.
MPs from across the political spectrum wore black golf T-shirts with messages of support including “we say NO to stigmatisation of women in sport”, and “we oppose subtle hatred”.
“Others arrive and say they want to give her drugs in order that she can’t compete,” chair of parliament’s sport and recreation committee Beauty Dlulane told the chamber in Cape Town.
“We already have a huge drug problem among South African youth,” she added.
Opposition National Freedom Party lawmaker Nhlanhlakayise Khubisa said “what is happening to Caster is the worst form of racism”.
“(It’s the) practice of patriarchy and chauvinism.
“She is being crucified for being an excelling, resilient, unwavering and unmatched athlete — our creme de la creme.”
United Democratic Movement MP Nqabayomzi Kwankwa said a scientific excuse was being used to “dumb down” Semenya’s successes.
The opposition Inkatha Freedom Party called on African athletes to boycott any future IAAF events if the “unfair ruling” was allowed to stand.
Semenya’s best 800m time of 1:54.25 seconds puts her fourth on the list of all-time fastest competitors.
It is almost one second slower than the world record of 1:53.28 set in 1983 by Jarmila Kratochvilova, which is now widely discredited because of Soviet-era doping.
The IAAF regulations were due to have been instituted in November 2018 but have been put on ice pending the outcome of last week’s hearings.
The ruling is expected on March 26.