The lawyer representing South African champion runner, Caster Semenya, said she is ‘disappointed’ with the reaction by World Athletics to her client’s ‘landmark’ win at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Tuesday.
“This is a landmark win, obviously, for Caster (Semenya, Ed.), but for athletes more widely. And the reason for that is because until now, athletes, operated and sporting people more generally in a sort of human rights vacuum. It was in the gift of sports federations and organisations like World Athletics to say, well, we decide if human rights may or may not apply to you. It’s up to us”, saidSchona Jolly KC, Caster Semenya’s lawyer and Cloisters Lead Council on the International Team.
The ECHR decided that Semenya was discriminated against by rules in track and field that force her to medically reduce her natural hormone levels to compete in major competitions.
“The European Court (of Human Rights, Ed.) said that’s not okay. It’s not okay for a whole category of people in this instance, professional sportspeople, just to be excluded from the protection of the convention. Professional sports people like Caster are entitled to have their fundamental rights properly considered, properly analysed. In this case, the violations of her rights were articles eight and 14, in other words, her right not to be discriminated against.
Her right to a private life. Her right to a professional life. Her right to a personal life. All of those were fundamental rights, and she deserved to have those properly considered, properly scrutinised. They were not by World Athletics. They were not by the Court of Arbitration of Sports. And they were not by the Swiss Federal Tribunal. The court said that can’t happen. That can’t happen anymore. There is no more human rights vacuum for professional sportspeople”, concluded the legal expert.
Semenya has been barred by the rules from running in her favourite 800-meter race since 2019 because she has refused to artificially suppress her testosterone. She has lost four years of her career at her peak.