Caster Semenya is set to be the headline act for the 69th BAM Ireland Cork City Sports on July 5 at the MTU stadium in Bishopstown after two years of postponement due to Covid.
Semenya is slated to compete in the 3000m at the event against Ireland's own Sarah Healy.
The South African runner gained relevance in 2009 when she won the women’s 800m world championship and set the fastest time of the year in that event.
Following her success that year, questions were raised about Semenya’s sex, and World Athletics (IAAF at the time) asked her to complete a sex verification test to confirm that she was female. The tests reportedly showed that the runner had higher testosterone levels than the average female.
Semenya began taking medication to suppress her testosterone levels after a 2011 ruling by World Athletics required all female athletes with her condition to medically lower their testosterone levels.
She later described the damaging effects the medication had on her.
“It made me sick, made me gain weight, panic attacks, I don’t know if I was ever going to have a heart attack,” Semenya told HBO on Real Sports back in May. “It’s like stabbing yourself with a knife every day.”
Due to the effect the medication had on her body, Semenya ceased her use of the drug, and due to a ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the runner was not allowed to run in races ranging from 400m to a mile to ensure fair competition unless she continued the drug.
Many people speculate that the ruling was meant to single out Semenya specifically because the three events that she regularly competed in fell within that range—the 400m, the 800m and the 1500m.
Because of the decision, the events that Semenya had previously competed in and trained for were no longer an option for her. In order to continue running, she announced that she would set out to qualify for the Olympics in the 5000m.
Semenya was unable to make Olympic qualifying time, and was unfortunately ineligible for the 2020 Olympics.
Back in 2019, court documents came to light of Semenya’s first legal challenge. The documents showed that World Athletics designated the runner as “biologically male,” however, Semenya was recognized at birth as a female, and has spent her entire life identifying as one.
In February of 2021, she made an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights citing the World Athletic rules as “discriminatory… demeaning and intrusive.”
It is unclear when that case will be handled, but other sports cases sent through the European Court of Human Rights have taken years to be determined.
Real Sport HBO invited World Athletics lawyer Jonathan Taylor to speak about the issue during the special in May. On the show he openly disagreed with medical panels that condemned the organisation for requiring the use of testosterone levelling drugs in order for women like Semenya to compete.
“You say medically it’s not healthy for me, then my question back to you is: ‘Why do the world’s leading experts say that that is what we would prescribe?’” said Taylor.
Semenya disputed Taylor's claims pointing to her personal experiences with the drug.
“Jonathan must cut his tongue and throw it away,” said Semenya. “If he wants to understand how that thing has tortured me, he must go and take those medications. He will understand.”