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Manjra on Semenya: 'IAAF making a call on issues science doesn't know'

Caster Semenya is currently at Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland looking to overturn eligibility rules for middle distance female runners with high testosterone levels.

FILE: Caster Semenya wins the women's 800m event at the Oslo Diamon League meeting on 7 June 2018. Picture: @Diamond_League/Twitter

CAPE TOWN - The South African Institute for Drug-Free Sport (Saids) chairperson, Dr Shuaib Manjra says that science does not have the answers in the complex case for the IAAF and double Olympic champion Caster Semenya.

Semenya is currently at Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland looking to overturn eligibility rules for middle distance female runners with high testosterone levels.

The IAAF wants women with naturally elevated testosterone to be obligated to take suppressants that lower their levels before being allowed to compete.

Speaking on CapeTalk with John Maytham, Manjra says the issues are not black and white.

"I think it's a highly complex issue and I think people trying to simplify this issue are ignoring the complexities of what the IAAF needs to do, it needs to regulate sport to ensure that there's a level playing field among female athletes and male athletes."

Manjra says athletes such as Semenya and Dutee Chand are possibly displaying testosterone levels similar to males and this is new territory for all parties involved.

Graphic showing the Olympic and World Championship record of South African athlete Caster Semenya.

"The challenge is now you're getting some of the athletes like Caster and Dutee Chand and we're crossing over into what we traditionally have known as male levels of testosterone.

"Now, I'm not taking into account the whole issue of a sociological construct of gender. I think that's a separate issue altogether. All I'm doing is looking at biology and potential performance enhancement.

"We don't have a category for these athletes. So let's assume that the testosterone levels are above 10 (nanomoles/l) and we want to force Caster to compete, then she's going to bring her testosterone levels down below five (n/l). Can you imagine what it will do to reduce her performance? I think Ross Tucker estimated it to be between five to seven seconds in the 800m, but what would be the consequent health effects on somebody like Caster?"

Manjra says the IAAF does not have the necessary evidence to implement their new policies.

"The IAAF is making a call on issues that science does not know but we don't have a category for such athletes. So my position is as long as you don't have a category, these athletes should be allowed to compete in the races where they get to categorise themselves, for example, Caster as a female."

A verdict from CAS is expected by the end of March.

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