Editorial: Caster Semenya’s Natural Ability Should be Celebrated, Not Restricted

Olivia Bratton, Editorial Editor

Upon hearing the name Caster Semenya, admirers across the world should appreciate the South African runner’s ability to perform spectacularly at multiple olympics and fulfill her role as a powerful female athlete. Instead, recent speculations surrounding Semenya’s naturally high levels of testosterone are causing officials to not only question her right to compete, but also her femininity.

The regulations discriminating against naturally gifted athletes such as Semenya are unjust, and she deserves to continue to perform and thrive in her natural body.

Caster Semenya, the South African Olympic gold medalist and World Champion, will now be forced to suppress her natural levels of testosterone in order to compete. In response, Semenya often posts inspirational quotes via Twitter and Instagram (Caster Semenya).

Showcasing her career by winning multiple World Championships and two Olympic medals in the 800 meters, Semenya has made her name known in the world of track and field. She is a decorated athlete who has shocked viewers with her incredible times, her personal record being 1:55 in the 800m.

According to the Washington Post, the first criticism surrounding the South African runner began in 2009, when she was only 18. Following her victory in the World Championship, she was forced to submit a gender test based off of speculations based majorly on her appearance and performances.

From then, the criticism has only heightened over time. The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the world governing body for track and field, has conducted multiple attempts to put Hyperandrogenism regulations in place. These regulations would place restrictions on females with a medical condition characterized by high levels of androgens. From the beginning of the speculations until recently, these drafts were not successful.

However, in April 2018, the IAAF was allowed to reinstitute the regulation for the specific events of the 400, 800, and 1500 meters, oddly similar to the events that Semenya specializes in. On May 1, 2019, the court officially ruled that in order to continue to compete, Semenya and similar athletes would be forced to suppress their testosterone levels.

This type of impactful decision may only be accepted if there was concrete scientific evidence to support the claim that naturally high levels of testosterone lead to an athletic advantage. However, studies have yet to make the clear distinction that testosterone is the sole contributor to elite women’s’ success. The science behind the athletic performance is much more complicated than is lead on by the IAAF claims.

According to cultural anthropologist and author Katrina Karkazis, “ [Testosterone] is one factor among many that contribute to athleticism. It is not a decisive factor. So, it is impossible to say and it is untrue that people with the highest levels [of testosterone] do better.”

Not only are these claims scientifically inaccurate, but they also degrade how females should look and perform to conform to society’s eyes. Semenya is a strong and powerful biological woman who identifies as such, and she deserves to be in a natural body that is not criticized for differing from the “typical” appearance and performance typically associated with femininity.

Regardless of the mounds of speculations and differing opinions surrounding Semenya’s natural body, there is one thing to know for sure: Caster Semenya will continue to showcase what it means to be an inspiring athlete.

In reaction to the controversial court rulings that will change her career, Semenya has responded with total strength and grace. Along with multiple statements in news interviews, the female athlete took to social media to express her opinions on the ruling. Following the decision on May 1, Semenya tweeted, “Sometimes it’s better to react with no reaction.”

Change in the international community starts with just one person. In order to voice opinions against the unjust and immoral regulations against female Olympian Caster Semenya and similar athletes, take part in the “Hands off Semenya Petition.”