Caster Semenya has been listed to compete at next week’s World Athletics Championships in Oregon, potentially setting up a surprise return to the big stage for the two-time Olympic champion.
- Semenya has been listed for the women’s 5,000m event
- The South African has not competed at a World Championships or Olympic Games since 2017
- She is appealing against rules that bar women who have a condition called 46,XY difference in sex development
Semenya, one of the sport’s most contentious athletes, was listed on Friday for the women’s 5,000 metres.
It is an event she has turned to after being banned from running in her favourite 800m race under track and field’s testosterone regulations.
Semenya’s inclusion on a competitor list released by World Athletics was unexpected because she did not make the qualifying time for the 5,000m event and was not included in the South Africa team for the World Championships named this week.
NBC reported Semenya was moved up onto the list after some higher-ranked runners did not enter the championships.
South Africa’s track federation and Semenya’s representatives did not immediately respond to requests for clarification.
If she runs, it will be the first time Semenya has appeared at a World Championships or Olympics since 2017, when she won her third world title in the 800.
She also has two Olympic golds over two laps but has been barred from running in races from 400m to one mile since 2019 under rules that bar women who have a particular intersex condition called 46,XY difference in sex development.
Semenya has twice gone to court to appeal against the rules but has lost both cases. She is pursuing a third appeal at the European Court of Human Rights.
Semenya’s appearance at a World Championships would also come just as athletics authorities are considering changes to their difference in sex development (DSD) regulations that might go so far as to completely exclude women athletes with 46,XY DSD and high natural testosterone from all female events at major meets.
In a HBO documentary, Semenya — who was assigned female at birth, raised as a girl and identifies as a woman — revealed that she has had to undergo various “gender verification” tests, including physical examinations.
“They thought I had a [penis], probably, Semenya said.
Asked if they looked at her naked, she said: “Yes of course. I told them, ‘It’s fine. I’m a female, I don’t care. If you want to see I’m a woman, I will show you my vagina, alright?'”
Those tests reportedly showed that Semenya had hyperandrogenism, characterised by a naturally high testosterone level. As a result, the runner was forced to take hormone medication, which she said had multiple damaging side-effects.
“It made me sick, made me gain weight, [have] panic attacks,” she said.
“I didn’t know if I was going to have a heart attack.
“But I had no choice. I [was] 18, I wanted to run, I wanted to make it to the Olympics.
“That was the only option for me. I had to make it work.”
Semenya has never publicly identified herself as intersex — that is, having both male and female traits — or as having the 46,XY DSD condition.
Semenya has publicly acknowledged having high natural testosterone but has declined to submit to the DSD rules that state she must undergo treatment to suppress her natural hormone levels to below a specific threshold if she wants to compete in the 800m event.