OTTAWA – The Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES), the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women in Sport and Physical Activity (CAAWS) and AthletesCAN are voicing their disagreement with the International Association of Athletics Federations’ (IAAF) Eligibility Regulations for the Female Classification that pertains to female athletes with differences of sex development (DSD). The CCES, CAAWS and AthletesCAN place a high value on inclusion and respect in sport and continue to believe that these regulations are in opposition to those principles.
Yesterday, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) released its ruling on Caster Semenya’s and Athletics South Africa’s (ASA) appeal of the IAAF’s regulations that place several requirements on a female athlete who has a DSD resulting in a high level of circulating testosterone (above 5 nmol/L, in serum) and who is androgen-sensitive. Most notable and perhaps most damaging is the requirement to artificially lower a female athlete’s natural testosterone for an extended period of time to below 5 nmol/L in order to be eligible to compete in certain races and competitions, known as Restricted Events.
“Sport does not benefit from exclusion, especially of those who are most marginalized,” said Allison Sandmeyer-Graves, CAAWS CEO. “The IAAF’s pursuit of fair competition is understandable; however, the continued preoccupation with establishing a standard of ‘femaleness’ is deeply offensive and harmful. It is at odds with our belief in the core value of inclusion and the rights of all women to participate fully in sport free from discrimination.”
“Are there controls or limits on male athletes who have genetic differences which may confer an advantage over others? No, such differences are typically celebrated. Women, on the other hand, continue to be scrutinized and forced to comply with policies that are arbitrary, overreaching and invasive,” said Paul Melia, CCES President and CEO. “The sport community has a duty to promote and protect inclusion and gender equity in sport at all levels.”
“The IAAF regulations carry a great risk of causing harm to athletes around the world, including many Canadian athletes. Further, they are outwardly based on historical gender ideology that women should look, be and perform in a certain way. This way of thinking segregates individuals, undermining the integrity and potential of sport,” said Dasha Peregoudova, President of AthletesCAN.
Additional Information About the Ruling
By a 2-1 majority, the CAS Panel dismissed Caster Semenya’s and ASA’s requests for arbitration. The Panel unanimously found that the IAAF’s DSD regulations are discriminatory, but the majority found that, on the basis of the evidence submitted by the parties, such discrimination is a necessary, reasonable and proportionate means of achieving the IAAF’s aim of preserving the integrity of female athletics in the Restricted Events. However, in its 165-page award, the Panel expressed some serious concerns as to the future practical application of these DSD Regulations. While the majority found that the evidence available so far does not negate the conclusion of prima facie proportionality, the Panel warned that this may change in the future, requiring constant attention to the fairness of how the regulations are implemented.
The CCES, CAAWS and AthletesCAN also recognize that this ruling will affect all female athletes competing in the IAAF’s Restricted Events where these regulations apply. The implementation of these regulations will require invasive ongoing monitoring of targeted female competitors to determine if their naturally occurring testosterone levels are below the mandated level. For this reason, the fair implementation of these regulations is a serious concern raised by CAS, one shared by the CCES, CAAWS and AthletesCAN. At the very least, the IAAF should ensure that no athlete is targeted under these policies without the provision of pro bono independent legal counsel representation of the athlete’s choice.
The CCES, CAAWS and AthletesCAN believe that, fundamentally, the IAAF policy raises a basic question of human rights: should a female athlete with naturally occurring higher levels of testosterone be required to undergo a significant medical intervention (ongoing hormone suppression treatments), when this is not the case for male athletes who also have wide variations in natural levels of testosterone, nor for athletes in general with a wide variety of genetic and physical differences. This begs the question of whether this is another in a long series of decisions by the international sport community to police women’s gender? Such implications fly in the face of human rights, and particularly the various United Nations and International Olympic Committee (IOC) undertakings that sport should be provided to all without discrimination of any kind.
CAS has released an Executive Summary of their decision. The CCES, CAAWS and AthletesCAN would like to see CAS also release the 165-page ruling (redacted to protect the medical confidentiality of individuals) to allow for full consideration of the evidence presented and the rationale for their decision. The CCES, CAAWS and AthletesCAN will continue to monitor further developments on the ruling and its implementation.
Additional information about the Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification is available on the IAAF website.
About the CCES
The CCES is an independent, national, not-for profit organization with a responsibility to administer the Canadian Anti-Doping Program. We recognize that true sport can make a great difference for individuals, communities and our country. The CCES acknowledges funding, in part, from the Government of Canada. We are committed to making sport better by working collaboratively to activate a values-based and principle-driven sport system; protecting the integrity of sport from the negative forces of doping and other unethical threats; and advocating for sport that is fair, safe and open to everyone.
CAAWS is dedicated to creating an equitable and inclusive Canadian sport and physical activity system that empowers girls and women—as active participants and leaders—within and through sport. With a focus on systemic change, we partner with governments, organizations and leaders to challenge the status quo and to advance solutions that result in measurable change.
AthletesCAN, the association of Canada’s national team athletes, is the only fully independent and most inclusive athlete organization in the country and the first organization of its kind in the world. As the collective voice of Canadian national team athletes, AthletesCAN ensures an athlete centered sport system by developing athlete leaders who influence sport policy and, as role models, inspire a strong sport culture.