Olympian Caster Semenya has won her appeal against the European Court of Human Rights over the rules on female athletes’ testosterone levels.

In March 2023, World Athletics decided to ban trans women from competing in the female category on elite level. Their ban stated that any transgender athlete who had gone through male puberty was barred from competing in the women’s category. World Athletics president Sebastian Coe explained that this decision is about ‘fairness for female athletes’. But who is really benefiting from this so-called fairness when not even cisgender women are allowed to compete?

Caster Semenya wins her appeal

Caster Semenya is a cisgender female athlete and Olympic runner who previously won the 800 metres track at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics. Semenya was prohibited from competing because of a previous World Athletics’ ban. This ban which came into effect in 2019, already limited female athletes’ testosterone levels.

World Athletics’ decision not only impacted trans women but cis women with differences of sexual development (DSD), such as Semenya, who has naturally higher testosterone levels. Because of the ban many cis women were forced to take hormones in order to change their natural hormone levels and be able to take part in competitions. Semenya explained the medication she was taking to suppress her testosterone levels made her sick. Therefore, she refused to artificially alter her natural hormone levels to meet World Athletics’ bigoted standards.

Olympian Semenya decided to appeal this ban in the European Court of Human Rights. While the Court of Arbitration for Sport and Switzerland’s supreme court denied two prior appeals, this July the court finally ruled in her favour. With a 4 to 3 vote, the EU Court of Human Rights declared that the Olympic runner had indeed been discriminated against. Semenya’s appeal forced the Court of Arbitration for Sport to re-evaluate their rules. However, it remains unclear whether these rules are going to be removed, altered, or if they will remain the same.

Let all women compete in sports

The World Athletics extended their regulations to all female track events. Subsequently, as of time of writing, Semenya remains unable to participate in next year’s Paris Olympics Games. The Olympian is free to challenge the rules again within the next three months. This could lead to the Grand Chamber hearing her case and making a final decision. Either way, her career is essentially on hold, waiting for World Athletics to amend their bans in order for her to compete without having to take medication.

While the research is limited, given the incredibly small number of existing trans athletes, let alone those competing on an elite level, a 2023 report showed that trans women do not have any biomedical advantage in elite sport. This report looked at all the scientific literature on trans athletes participating in sport competitions published in the last decade. Nevertheless, sports organisations, such as World Athletics and FINA, are all unfairly targeting trans women to further their anti-trans agenda.

Trans women belong in sport. These bans not only exclude trans female athletes but also cisgender women with different testosterone levels like Semenya. The president of World Athletics stated that the bans are in place to allegedly protect the ‘integrity of the female category’. But how can that really be the case when both cis and trans women are banned from competing.