Because she loves athletics, because she is excited by the Games that slam the door in her face, Caster Semenya keeps running.
Because she loves herself, her body, her love for her wife, Violet Raseboya, pregnant with her second child now (the first, Oratile, is two years old), the 30-year-old South African athlete refuses to take medication, to poison her body with estrogens to reduce her testosterone to levels admitted by world athletics regulations that allow her to participate in her test, in the 800 meters that have made her twice Olympic champion, in London 2012 and Rio 2016.
Caster Semenya, the woman who has brought athletics to its knees
The rule came into effect after Semenya won his third world title in London 2017. She appealed against a norm that defined a feminine normality that excluded her, and several other athletes, all African, all of high level, before civil and sports courts, without success. In that Olympic femininity, exhibited as a triumph of equality in the opening parade of the Games with the acceptance of couples of different gender as joint flag-bearers, they do not enter because their testosterone is not what is expected from the biological definition of woman.
And yet several United Nations statements reflect the absurdity of fixing a person's gender to such a precise and arbitrary measure as the production of five nanomoles of endogenous testosterone per liter of blood, and they stand out, and see it as a hint of racism, how the rule seems to affect only African women. No published scientific study shows that a higher level of testosterone provides a competitive advantage that other biological characteristics cannot offer.
Semenya also appealed last February to the European Court of Human Rights. While awaiting his sentence, Semenya tried to qualify for the 5,000m. After a lot of training and several attempts, she was more than 20 seconds from the minimum, 15m 10s, a mark that the Burundian Francis Niyonsaba did exceed, banned as Semenya from all distances included between 400m and the mile. “I could have tried to run the 200m, which in theory would be better for me, I am more of a sprinter than a long distance runner”, he explained a few months ago, “but I am now 30 years old, I have already lost speed and I am afraid of injuries. Anyway, it is not the end of the world.
At the 200m, two very young Namibian athletes, Christine Mboma and Beatrice Masilingi, both 18 years old, signed up by obligation, who in spring achieved two of the three best world records of the year in 400m.
The 18-year-old Mboma 48.54s are also a new U-20 world record. They would be among Tokyo's favorites if it weren't for the fact that three weeks ago, the Namibian federation itself erased them from the list, recognizing that, being them totally Ignorant of the matter, the tests they had been subjected to showed that they exceeded the endogenous testosterone limit.
Caster Semenya and how a woman is defined
Although her best mark in the 800m (1m 54.25s) is only the fourth best in history (practically one second behind 1m 53.28s, the suspected world record for exogenous testosterone of the Czech Jarmila Kratochvilova since 1983), during For almost a decade, Semenya has been an invincible athlete in the distance, which has convinced her that the norm, officially designated to adapt the so-called hyperandrogenia of women with differentiated sexual development, is nothing more than an anti-Semenya rule. Several athletes without endogenous testosterone problems, such as the Jamaican Natoya Goule, the American Ajee Wilson and the Ethiopian Habitam Alemu, achieved records close to theirs. Ironically, the ban on Semenya has coincided with an avalanche of better records in the 800m,Simultaneous also to the emergence of the new nails with carbon plates and thick and light foams. No less than six athletes, led by the 1m 56.07s of the prodigious American teenager Athing Mu, have dropped in 2021 from 1m 57s, a mark previously very distant from non-doped athletics.
World Athletics (new name for the old IAAF, the international federation), however, does not seem willing to implement new rules by more narrowly limiting the thickness of female athletes' soles.
Meanwhile, Semenya has to watch the Tokyo Games from a distance.
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