I feel for Olympic champion Caster Semenya in hormone row, but the ruling is right

IF you have been following the story of two-time Olympic 800-metre champ Caster Semenya, you will know this has not been a good week for her.

The South African lost a landmark legal case against governing body the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), in a case that could end her career as an elite athlete.

PA:Press Association

Two-time Olympic 800-metre champ Caster Semenya lost a landmark legal case against governing body the IAAF[/caption]

Semenya, who was born with what is known as a difference in sexual development (DSD), must now take medication to lower her naturally forming testosterone if she wants to compete internationally in events between 400 metres and a mile.

People with a DSD do not develop along typical gender lines. Their hormones, genes and reproductive organs may have a mix of male and female characteristics.

They may have higher levels of testosterone — the hormone that increases muscle mass, strength and haemoglobin, which affects endurance.

Semenya has challenged official testosterone limits, arguing it is not clear how much athletes like her benefit from their naturally higher counts.


But the IAAF has ruled that female athletes with elevated testosterone do have a competitive advantage. They say it can give a three per cent improvement to some runners.

If you think about how close most races are, that could make all the difference between a gold medal and a bronze.

So they demand these athletes reduce their testosterone to below a certain level for at least six months for certain events.

According to sports scientist Ross Tucker, the effect of lowering Semenya’s testosterone levels will be significant. He predicts she will be five to seven seconds slower over 800 metres.


Even a three per cent improvement could make all the difference between a gold medal and a bronze[/caption]

In the face of this ruling, some have asked — and you can see why — whether athletes born with unusually long legs, say, will need to have them shortened in order to run on a level playing field with less-blessed athletes.

There is also irony, isn’t there, in the fact that athletes competing in a sport with some of the toughest anti-doping laws around will be required to TAKE drugs to suppress natural levels of testosterone? This seems wrong.

But I agree with the ruling. I do not think it is fair for female athletes who have the advantage of an elevated male hormone count to compete with women who do not.

I feel for Semenya. She is a brilliant athlete and totally dedicated. She is also a three-time world champion over 800 metres — and the 28-year-old has won her past 29 races over the distance.


She has not taken steroids or hormones to enhance her performance. This is just the way she was born, which is why she refers to her DSD as a “gift”.

Tennis legend Martina Navratilova backed her this week, branding the ruling unfair and saying: “She has done nothing wrong and it is awful that she will now have to take drugs to be able to compete. General rules should not be made from exceptional cases.”

Martina has been accused of being transphobic when she suggested it was potentially cheat-ing for transgender athletes to compete in women’s sports.

Her point is that it is unfair for people who were once biologically men to compete as women.

PA:Press Association

Tennis legend Martina Navratilova has backed Semenya, branding the ruling unfair[/caption]

Some suggested that a solution would be a “protected” category based on hormone levels, rather than gender. But the idea of creating a third category for people with DSD is ridiculous, as the pool would be so small.

Unfortunately, there is no perfect solution.

Semenya did not ask to be born with additional testosterone. But it is true that as long as she has it, the playing field is not level.

Her hormones make her unbeatable, which is not fair to other athletes dedicating their lives to training and knowing they can come no better than second.

Home discomfort

I’M not surprised residents living in a Grade II-listed building are upset after being told they need an eviction notice to remove two homeless people who have pitched a tent in their front garden.

The pair, and a dog, have been living on a patch of grass at the entrance to Beach House in Worthing, West Sussex, since March and there is nothing residents can do about it without an eviction notice.

Why do you need a notice to get someone out of your garden?

What’s wrong with this country?

Penny’s our best defence

ON the one hand, it is astonishing that we have never had a female Defence Secretary.

On the other, let us celebrate the landmark triumph that we now have one – in the form of Penny Mordaunt.

Alamy Live News

As a a former Royal Navy reserve officer and MP for Portsmouth, Penny Mordaunt is a particularly well qualified Defence Secretary[/caption]

Royal Navy reservist Mordaunt has replaced Gavin Williamson, who was sacked this week by Theresa May for allegedly leaking details from a National Security Council meeting last month –  something he denies.

The fact his replacement is a woman feels even more poignant, coming as it does on the 40th anniversary of the arrival of our first female Prime Minister. What a good reminder that women really have come a long way.

If my experience of working with women in business is anything to go by, I’m pretty sure that if we had more women in charge of defence, there would be fewer wars.

Women running the military would have more of a conciliatory approach, rather than a combative one.

They are more likely to look for solutions rather than storming into situations with willy-waving aggression.

They care much more about teamwork rather than ego, prestige and status, which is why they tend to get the job done.

As well as being a woman, though, Morduant is particularly well qualified for her new role.

She is a former Royal Navy reserve officer and MP for Portsmouth – a naval town.

All in all, pretty much the perfect person for the job.

Another fine mess

YOU would think a paralegal who can afford to drive a £30,000 Mercedes would be good for the £10.80 it cost to park their car for the day.

I bet Malikah Richards, 25, now regrets fiddling her parking ticket, paying only £1.80 to park her Mercedes C220 outside her boyfriend’s house in Portsmouth last October – then going to the trouble of doctoring the ticket using Tipp-Ex.

The result? A £780 fine. I bet she now wishes she had stumped up that extra £9.

Whiff of injustice

GIVEN how laughably inadequate some jail terms are for serious crimes such as rape and assault, it feels wrong that a former hospital doctor, Angharad Roberts, has been jailed for a YEAR for stealing some PERFUME from John Lewis.

Of course, stealing is wrong, but this 38-year-old woman’s life tells a story. She qualified as a nurse in 2002 before going on to get her medical degree and working as a doctor at Nevill Hall Hospital in Abergavenny, South Wales.

She lost her job after a relationship breakdown led her to misuse alcohol. Clearly, she has had a difficult time. Clearly, she is struggling.

But is a year’s jail really going to help? That is too harsh. But also, with no rehabilitation prospects in prison, Angharad is likely to come out with even worse drug and alcohol issues than she has now.

If she had been caught running around London with a machete, she would probably just get a stern talking-to.

The sentencing system needs some reform.

The right call

SOME people have criticised plans to make sex attack victims hand over their mobile phones to investigating police.

Officers will seek permission to trawl through victims’ text messages, emails, photographs, videos and social media for evidence – something privacy and rape campaigners say is akin to a “digital strip search”.

But I can’t see what the problem is. If you have a genuine complaint you have nothing to hide and it seems fair that both parties have their phones looked at.

Shame on awards bosses

PLENTY of people will defend the Professional Footballers’ Association’s decision, at their awards ceremony earlier this week, to allow backing dancers to appear in white swimsuits alongside a music act.

Squawka Football/YouTube

The Manor’s performance was in stark contrast to the message of sexual equality that football is trying to promote[/caption]

Grime trio The Manor performed their hit Ibiza surrounded by the scantily clad women at the annual bash at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel.

To me, though, that seems in stark contrast to the message of sexual equality that football is trying to promote.

An argument often trotted out in defence of this kind of thing is as follows: If the performers don’t mind doing it and are paid for it well, it is their choice – so what is the harm in it?

The harm is the degree to which these women are objectified and presented as the entertainment rather than, say, professional athletes.

I think the Professional Footballers’ Association needs to do better.

Meat and greet

I AM a big believer in a “live and let live” approach to life. But hearing about the vegan protesters who wore pig masks to storm a branch of Greggs, in protest at the sale of meat products, makes me cross.

A group of animal activists marched into the bakery in Brighton, holding placards and giving speeches about the farming industry as well as chanting various anti-meat slogans including “meat is murder”.

I do not know how many sausage-roll lovers they managed to convert to veganism that day. But I am pretty sure they made a fair few enemies.

They wonder why vegans have a bad reputation.


(Visited 14 times, 1 visits today)

Leave a Reply