All Caster wants is to be herself

Now in her early thirties, South African runner Caster Semenya endured a difficult journey to stardom, marked by public scrutiny and medical interventions.

Beginning with her triumph at the 2009 World Athletics Championships, the then 18-year-old’s victory in the 800m event was ruined by speculation regarding her gender, prompted by her masculine physique and voice. 

Semenya was subjected to gender verification tests by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), now known as World Athletics.

Semenya’s next decade was a fierce battle for her right to compete, involving a monitored medical treatment plan that left her feeling depressed. 

World Athletics responded by stating that the treatment plan was mutually agreed upon with Semenya’s treating physician and was regularly monitored. 

Leaked test results revealed elevated testosterone levels, while Australian media outlets labelled her a “hermaphrodite”. 

In 2010, the IAAF agreed to allow Semenya to compete, provided she took hormonal contraceptives to reduce her testosterone levels. The medication left her in a state of constant physical discomfort and emotional turmoil.

Despite these challenges, Semenya remained steadfast. Now her autobiography, ‘The Race to Be Myself’, details her experiences of gender-based discrimination by the global athletics fraternity. 

She emphatically identifies as a woman, dismissing labels like intersex and DSD (differences of sexual development) imposed by various bodies. Semenya asserts that such terms are European constructs, irrelevant to her identity as an African woman, The Guardian reported. 

Semenya’s fortunes changed in 2015 when a temporary Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling suspended the IAAF’s hyperandrogenism rules, allowing her to compete without medication. 

She triumphed in the 800m at the Rio Olympics in 2016 and won a bronze in the 1,500m at the 2017 World Championships.

Semenya eventually took her case to the European Court of Human Rights, winning a ruling in her favour.

Outside her athletic career, she holds a degree in sports management, enjoys family life with her wife and daughters, and pursues various interests.

Compiled by staff writer

Pictured above: Caster Semenya. 

Image source: X


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