Caster Semenya: A Case of Being Punished for One’s Biology

The Court of Arbitration for Sport has made a controversial decision in the case of Caster Semenya

Caster Semenya (Image Source: Time Magazine)
Caster Semenya (Image Source: Time Magazine)

Caster Semenya is a force of nature. The middle-distance runner is an Olympic gold medallist, World Championship winner and is arguably one of the fastest women our world has ever seen. But unfortunately, it appears the sporting world isn’t quite ready to accept that, with the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling on Wednesday that Semenya be required to take testosterone suppressants if she wishes to compete in future events. The decision has sparked controversy and outrage, with many claiming the ruling is discriminatory and a violation of Semenya’s rights.

It’s devastating that Semenya is being punished on the basis of her biological makeup. It’s also terribly ironic, given that most Olympic athletes dohave some kind of biological advantage over the rest of us. That’s why they’re winning gold medals on the track while we can barely make a dash for the train. The fact is, Semenya is being penalized for having the body, hormones and build that she was born with. What makes the decision all the more upsetting is that most athletes, notably males, aren’t submitted to the same discrimination. No one questioned Usain Bolt’s hormone levels when he smashed the men’s 100m. No one made Ian Thorpe reduce his flipper-like size 17 feet. And no one demanded the net be put higher when the towering Michael Jordan went in for a slam-dunk. Instead we applauded, cheered and stood agape in awe of their talents.

Yet, it appears the sporting world refuses to do the same for Semenya. The ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport sends a clear message that for Semenya to be accepted, she must change her natural body. The ruling demands that she be less – less strong, less fast, less different. What kind of message does this send to people who are different? And what kind of message does it send to future female athletes?

The ruling of the Court is devastating, and shows just how far we have to go as a society. For all the talk about good sportsmanship and fairness, sport will never trulybe fair until Semenya, and others like her, can compete freely and openly in the body they were born with.