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Semenya vs World Athletics: How this Olympic runner’s case gives way to an intersectional analysis

Updated: Dec 19, 2023

Earlier this year, South African Olympic runner Caster Semenya won her discrimination case in the European Court of Human Rights.

However, she and many other women athletes might still be banned from competing under World Athletics regulations that state that women who have higher testosterone levels are barred from competing.

In her NY Times Opinion piece “Running in a body that’s my own” Semenya addresses how these regulations and forced medical exams question her identity calling her “an intersex person,” even though she doesn’t see herself that way:

That identity doesn’t fit me; it doesn’t fit my soul.

Semenya also notes that these regulations seem to be targeting women of color, who, she asserts, “are from impoverished backgrounds [and] see running as their only hope of making a life for themselves and their families. They are intimidated by a system they cannot understand, and they don’t have the resources to fight for themselves.”

Semenya's story about her legal battle against World Athletics highlights the complex and intersectional nature of discrimination in sports. Her case not only underscores the struggle for individual identity and bodily autonomy but also sheds light on the potential bias and disparities faced by women of color from disadvantaged backgrounds.

By examining Semenya's story, we gain valuable insights into the ongoing challenges of inclusivity and fairness in the world of athletics, emphasizing the need for a more equitable and empathetic approach to sports regulations and athlete rights.

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