"Take the pill, or switch events" — that's the blunt choice the International Association of Athletics Federations [IAAF] has given South African track star Caster Semenya.
Semenya's domination of the female middle-distance track is under threat, after the IAAF approved controversial rule changes for athletes with hyperandrogenism on Thursday, at the same time presenting female athletes with the condition — Semenya in particular — with an uncompromising ultimatum.
IAAF approved the proposal, first raised in March, to set a limit on the permissible naturally produced testosterone in female competitors running the 400, 800 and 1,500 metres.
The rule will force Semenya either to take testosterone-lowering medication to reduce her naturally occurring testosterone levels, or switch to longer-distance events. It will come into effect from November 1, 2018.
Hyperandrogenism is defined as a medical condition characterised by excessive levels of androgens ("male" sex hormones like testosterone) in the female body.
If Semenya refuses to take testosterone-lowering medication, she will have to run the 5,000m and 10,000m races, and forgo the shorter distances in which she has triumphed repeatedly.
This ruling comes after Semenya's stellar campaign at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. She broke two records in one race, taking gold in the Women's 800m in a time of 1:56.68 — a Commonwealth Games record — at the same time setting a first with back-to-back golds in both the 1,500m and 800m.
South Africans took to social media to express their anger — and in some cases, confused at the rule change:
Do you think the IAAF is doing this because #CasterSemenya is a Black Powerful Woman?— T!NY🇿🇦 (@ThatReal_Tiny) April 26, 2018
Why are they not Demanding the same Things from other Female Athletes?
Could this be a Nationality Issue or Does it boil Down to Politics? pic.twitter.com/MoyAhH1oXI
Maybe tell the other "athletes" to train harder instead of trying to make #CasterSemenya slower. . .👀. . .— Ivan Chalmers (@Hollow6Ivan) April 26, 2018
I hope she does take action against the IAAF.. she's not doing anything artificial to enhance her performance its natural! it's not right to have to force her to mess around with her hormones! #CasterSemenya— Shauna Corrigan (@shaunafrmbatley) April 26, 2018
#CasterSemenya I don't think it's fair to introduce something foreign in an individual's body and expect her to function normal. This lowering of testesteorne in Caster's body is really another way of controlling the black female body!!! 😤— Simphiwe (@Simphziy) April 26, 2018
Caster does not have a condition to be rectified. Caster is a beautiful, gifted woman❤️. #CasterSemenya— Simphiwe (@Simphziy) April 26, 2018