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SportsJudges set to hear the Semenya case before a verdict

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Judges set to hear the Semenya case before a verdict

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Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights is set to hear the case involving middle-distance runner Caster Semenya on Wednesday, before issuing a final ruling.

Semenya, aged 32, was born with differences of sexual development (DSD) and is unable to compete in female track events without undergoing testosterone-reducing treatment.

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She contends that World Athletics discriminates against athletes with her condition.

In a related case last July, the ECHR ruled in Semenya’s favor regarding testosterone levels in female athletes.

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However, this case does not directly challenge sporting regulations or DSD rules but rather the Swiss government’s failure to safeguard Semenya’s rights, stemming from a Swiss Supreme Court ruling three years ago.

The Swiss government has requested that the matter be referred to the court’s Grand Chamber.

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The ECHR Grand Chamber, comprising 17 judges and convened in exceptional cases, issues verdicts that cannot be appealed.

Since this case involves the Swiss government rather than athletic governing bodies, any decision is unlikely to immediately impact current restrictions on DSD athletes.

World Athletics regulations impose limits on testosterone levels for female runners competing in track events ranging from 400m up to the mile.

Semenya, along with other DSD athletes exceeding the approved testosterone levels, is barred from competing in female track events unless she undergoes testosterone-reducing treatment.

Semenya said in October last year she was turning her attention to “winning battles against the authorities” rather than collecting medals.

Semenya lodged an appeal against World Athletics’ rules at the Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in 2019, which resulted in her losing a significant case.

Following this, Semenya’s team sought to challenge the CAS ruling with another appeal, but Switzerland’s highest court dismissed it in September 2020.

This final decision by the Swiss court served as the foundation for an application filed by Semenya at the ECHR in 2021.

World Athletics has said its DSD regulations “are a necessary, reasonable and proportionate means of protecting fair competition in the female category”.

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