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Semenya's team hit back at IAAF over Lord Coe's comments

Semenya and the IAAF are locked in a landmark case at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

South African 800 metres Olympic champion Caster Semenya (C) and her lawyer Gregory Nott (R) arrive for a landmark hearing at the Court of Arbitration (CAS) in Lausanne on 18 February 2019. Picture: AFP.

CAPE TOWN - Caster Semenya’s legal team issued a rare statement in response to the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) president Sebastian Coe’s comments on gender classification and DSD female athletes (differences of sexual development).

Coe told the Australian Daily Telegraph last weekend: "The reason we have gender classification is that if you didn’t then no woman would ever win another title or another medal or break another record in our sport."

Semenya and the IAAF are locked in a landmark case at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). The athletics governing body proposed regulations that require female athletes with naturally high testosterone levels to take testosterone suppressants to compete in certain events. This will directly affect Semenya, who is a middle distance runner.

Coe’s comments prompted a rare and passionate response from Semenya’s team in a statement which read:

"Ms Semenya remembers her story breaking out of Australia 10 years ago on the eve of her competing in the 2009 World Championships. After winning the 800 metre final the next day, Ms Semenya stood in the middle of the stadium knowing everyone watching the event was judging her. She was 18.

"The nature of the intrusive medical examinations Ms Semenya was subjected to following the event were discussed publicly, including by the IAAF."

"The scars Ms Semenya has developed over the past decade run deep. She has endured and forged herself into a symbol of strength, hope and courage. Reading the comments of Mr Coe this weekend opened those old wounds.

"Ms Semenya is a woman. There is no debate or question about this and the IAAF does not dispute this. She was born a woman, raised a woman, socialised as a woman and has competed as a woman her entire life.

"Women with DSD are born with rare genetic differences. These differences should be celebrated in sports like all other genetic variations that make elite events worth watching. Mr Coe is wrong to think Ms Semenya is a threat to women’s sport. Ms Semenya is a heroine and inspirational role model for young girls around the world who dream of achieving excellence in sport.

"Ms Semenya hopes and dreams that one day she can run free of judgment, free of discrimination and in a world where she is accepted for who she is."

In response, the IAAF issued the following statement:

"If you are going to have a protected category as we do for female sport then you need to find a way for DSD and transgender athletes to compete in the way that is fair for all female athletes. The IAAF has endeavoured to do this with its Female Classification (Athlete with Differences of Sexual Development) eligibility regulations and Lord Coe's comments in the Australian Daily Telegraph are entirely consistent with both his and the IAAF's comments on this issue since the regulations were introduced."

The verdict of the case was supposed to be released on the 26 March, however, CAS issued a statement saying it would only come at the end of April.