Road To The Olympic Games

Track and Field

Defiant Caster Semenya urges IAAF to 'focus on doping, not us'

A defiant Caster Semenya is urging track's governing body to drop its battle against female runners with high testosterone levels and instead focus on catching dope cheats.

Olympic champ says she will refuse to medicate her naturally high testosterone

After winning a 2,000 metre race on the outskirts of Paris, Caster Semenya once again made clear that she will refuse to medicate to bring down her testosterone levels, to comply with hugely controversial rules pushed by the IAAF. (Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt/Getty Images)

After another winning run, a defiant Caster Semenya on Tuesday urged track's governing body to drop its pursuit of female runners with high testosterone levels and instead focus on catching dope cheats.

Speaking after winning a 2,000-metre race on the outskirts of Paris, the South African again made clear that she will refuse to medicate to bring down her testosterone levels, to comply with hugely controversial rules pushed by the IAAF.

WATCH | Semenya's 1st place finish

South Africa's Caster Semenya finishes 1st in a 2,000 metre race on the outskirts of Paris. 1:00

"I'm not an idiot. Why will I take drugs? I'm a pure athlete. I don't cheat. They should focus on doping, not us. I'm never going to take drugs," the two-time Olympic champion over 800 metres said.

Another athlete affected by the rules, Francine Niyonsaba, also responded with a defiant "No!" when asked after the race if she would medicate.

"I'm sad, because it's a discriminatory rule, you know, a rule that targeted me and other world-class athletes in certain disciplines," said Niyonsaba, who took the silver medal behind Semenya in the 800 at the 2016 Olympics.

Athletes affected by the rules have levels of testosterone in the male range, the IAAF says, and they must reduce them to be allowed to run in women's events. The IAAF argues that testosterone's muscle-building capacity and ability to help athletes carry more oxygen in their blood gives Semenya and others like her an unfair athletic advantage over other women.

Master of her own fate

The rules, which came into effect May 8, apply to races from 400m to one mile. Semenya tried but failed to have the regulations struck down by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Her legal team subsequently appealed to the Swiss supreme court, which then temporarily lifted the contentious rules in her case.

Semenya wouldn't comment Tuesday on that appeal, saying she's not a lawyer. But she made clear that she intends to be the master of her own fate, saying: "I'm not going to change because of any man."

"If they have a problem with me, I don't have a problem with them. That's their business, to worry, not mine," she said.

On a soggy, rain-drenched and chilly evening, Semenya ran a forgettable time of 5 minutes, 38.19 seconds over 2,000 metres, a rarely-run distance that isn't an Olympic medal event.

Ultimately, if her appeal fails and Semenya can no longer compete over 800 metres, her signature event, she suggested that it wouldn't be the end of the world for her. She said she could drop down to sprints or scale up to longer distances if needed.

"I can run any event I want," she said. "I'm a talented athlete. I'm not worried about anything else."

Broadcast Partners

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.