The UN Human Rights Council has condemned the IAAF’s attempt to regulate the testosterone levels of female athletes, as nations unanimously backed the cause of South African runner Caster Semenya.
In a rare intrusion in the world of sport, the United Nations’ top rights body has passed a resolution stating that the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) may be in breach of “international human rights norms and standards”.
The South African-led resolution called on governments to ensure that sports organisations “refrain from developing and enforcing policies and practices that force, coerce or otherwise pressure women and girl athletes into undergoing unnecessary, humiliating and harmful medical procedures”.
It was adopted by consensus by the council’s 47 members on Thursday.
South Africa’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Nozipho Joyce Mxakato-Diseko, told AFP she was “pleasantly delighted” the resolution was adopted by acclamation.
“It means that in essence all the members of the UN agree with us,” Mxakato-Diseko said.
“They agree that what is being required of Caster Semenya is in violation of international human rights law.”
“Caster is a woman,” the ambassador added. “She cannot be told by anybody on the basis of … dubious scientific evidence that she is not a woman.”
The IAAF is looking to force so-called “hyperandrogenic” athletes or those with “differences of sexual development” (DSD) to seek treatment to lower their testosterone levels below a prescribed amount if they wish to continue competing as women.
World athletics’ governing body has argued the moves are necessary to create a “level playing field” for other female athletes.
Double Olympic champion Semenya, who has dominated the women’s 800 metres over the last decade, has filed a challenge against the IAAF at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Her testosterone levels are not publicly known.