Caster Semenya says she went through ‘hell’ due to testosterone limits imposed on female athletes

South Africa’s two-time Olympic champion Caster Semenya told CNN that having to take testosterone-reducing medication in order to compete internationally was “hell” and had a negative impact on her health.

In her new book, “The Race To Be Myself,’ Semenya describes the damaging impact the medication had on her body and now says she wants to use her platform to stop other women having to endure the same thing.

“I would say it was hell because each and every day you live under stress,” Semenya told CNN’s Bianna Golodryga, speaking about taking the medication.

The runner has been at the forefront of controversy. She has been supported by athletes of world renown like tennis great Martina Navratilova but British runner Lynsey Sharp tearfully said how “difficult” it was for her and others to compete against Semenya.

Sharp broke down in tears after watching Semenya storm away to victory at the Rio Olympics in 2016.

Semenya is hyperandrogenous – meaning she has naturally high levels of testosterone – and is fighting against new rules introduced in 2019 by track and field’s governing body World Athletics (WA) – and previously known as the IAAF – that regulate levels of the hormone in female athletes.

In July this year, Semenya won an appeal which she had submitted to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to end the testosterone limits.

“You are not happy within; you are never happy. It makes you feel sick, nauseous. You have panic attacks. It starts creating a little bit of blood clots in your system,” Semenya says.

“Your stomach is burning. You eat a lot. You can’t sleep. You sweat a lot each and every day.

“It’s like digging a hole that you can never fill up. You know, it’s like you measure a casket and you get in and then you bury yourself. It was not easy. It was a hard time.”

In a statement to CNN, World Athletics said it stood by its rules and research.

“World Athletics has over a decade of research, directly from DSD athletes in our own sport, that show high testosterone levels do provide an unfair advantage in the female category,” World Athletics said.

“The research also shows that the frequency of DSD individuals in the elite athlete population is around 140 times higher than you will find in the general female population. This is why our guidelines on testosterone thresholds are necessary, reasonable, and proportionate to protect the integrity of the female category and have been upheld by two Courts.

“If we don’t protect the female category, then women and young girls will not choose sport.”


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