A Swiss appeals court ruling dismissing Caster Semenya’s case and banning her from defending her Olympic title next year was wrong but also inadvertently opened the door for trans athletes, according to Australian athlete Hannah Mouncey.
The Swiss Supreme Court dismissed Semenya’s appeal against the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s ruling last year, which upheld World Athletics rules on athletes with “Differences of Sexual Development”.
The ruling means that in order to compete next year at the Olympics, the South African 800 metres champion would have to take drugs to lower her testosterone levels below the limit the track-and-field peak body set for female athletes.
Semenya, an intersex runner who won gold in the 800m at the London and Rio Olympics, has said she will not do this.
Mouncey, a trans athlete who was banned from the AFLW draft but later allowed to play VFLW, has played handball for Australia's men's and women's teams. She said it was wrong to ask an athlete to take drugs to change what was natural in an intersex athlete.
“Intersex athletes are different to trans athletes and for an intersex athlete this is naturally occurring testosterone. She is female, what are they going to do – ban seven-foot basketballers [because they have a physical advantage]?,” she said.
“To me it feels like they targeted her because they didn’t want her to win. It’s like you can compete until you are good and then you can’t compete.”
She stressed this was different to trans athletes but said the decision was an acknowledgment that the key difference between male and female athletes was testosterone level.
“The IAAF has inadvertently said we believe if you lower your testosterone level then there is no advantage, and that is what we have been saying for years.
“So from my perspective it only backs up what we have been saying which is if you lower your testosterone there is no performance advantage.”
The rules require athletes who have naturally high levels of testosterone to medically alter their testosterone levels to less than 5 nmol/L, which is double the normal female range of below 2 nmol/L in order to compete in the races from 400m to a mile.
The rules do not apply to other track-and-field events.
World Athletics said the rules were intended to protect women’s sport and welcomed the court’s ruling saying the regulations were a “legitimate and proportionate means of protecting the right of all female athletes to participate in our sport on fair and meaningful terms".
Semenya said the regulations endangered the health of athletes who just wanted to compete.
"I am very disappointed by this ruling, but refuse to let World Athletics drug me or stop me from being who I am," Semenya said after the ruling.
"Excluding female athletes or endangering our health solely because of our natural abilities puts World Athletics on the wrong side of history.
"I will continue to fight for the human rights of female athletes, both on the track and off the track, until we can all run free the way we were born.”