The Deputy Minister of Sport & Recreation: Mr Gert Oosthuizen
The Director General of Sport & Recreation: Alec Moemi
Leaders of Federations who have joined us
Members of the Media
Ladies & Gentlemen
On the 18 of February 2019 the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CSA) will hear the matter between International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), Athletics South Africa and Caster Semenya. Our history as a nation was in the main based on the defence of our people against their human rights violation, a right to belong, that all humans are created equal. Therefore as South African government we have a direct interest in the proceedings and outcome of this case. This interest is informed by our historical stance as a nation towards human rights and also if the proposed regulations go unchallenged will have a negative impact to our Golden Girl, Caster Semenya. What’s at stake here is far more than the right to participate in a sport. Women’s bodies, their wellbeing, their ability to earn a livelihood, their very identity, their privacy and sense of safety and belonging in the world, are being questioned. This is a gross violation of internationally accepted standards of human rights law.
The IAAF introduced rules and regulations governing eligibility for females with hyperandrogenism to compete in women competition for the first time in 2011.
The purpose of these Regulations was to determine Eligibility classification of female athletes with the hyperandrogenism to participate in the female athletics categories and the conditions under which they would be allowed to compete.
The adverse effects of these Regulations were seen in 2014 when Duntee Chand, a sprinter from India was suspended from participating in international competition after hormone testing reportedly revealed that her body produced excessive natural levels of testosterone.
She challenged these Regulations at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CSA) arguing that they are unlawfully discriminating against some female athletes on the basis of a natural characteristic of unusual natural genetic trait, even if that trait confers an advantage over fellow female athletes who do not have a trait.
Subsequently the Regulations were suspended by CSA and Ms. Chand was allowed to compete again, while the IAAF was instructed to produce a scientific evidence that will support their thesis of causality between female testosterone levels and their performance, and report back in two years, and that was 2017.
Instead of bringing compelling evidence as per the directive of the Court, the IAAF instead introduced new Hyperandrogenism Regulations in 2018, which amplified the previous 2011 Regulations.
In terms of this new Regulations a female with hyperandrogenism who is recognised as a female in law shall be eligible to compete in women competitions in athletics provided that she has androgen level below that of a male, specifically their natural levels of testosterone must be below 5 Nanomoles Per Litre.
Moreover, the new Regulations are only applicable to 400m to mile, including 400m, hurdle races, 800m and 1500m, the categories wherein coincidentally Caster Semenya participate and generally dominates. The logic as to why Regulations were restricted to these categories is still unclear, thus compelling us, as a country, to suspect they are targeted to our very own daughter of the soil, who is the reigning world champion in the 400m and 800m track.
These Regulations have drawn criticism from organizations and eminent individuals in various sectors including human rights, medical science, sport and sports law both here at home and abroad. The critics have elevated a point that the Regulations are discriminatory and violates fundamental and international human rights, including a right to physical and bodily integrity, the right to freedom from torture, and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and harmful practices.
As a South African government, we have added our voice in condemnation of these Regulations mainly as a matter of principle as a country that respect and promote human rights and also in support of an application lodged by Athletic South Africa (ASA) at CAS challenging these regulations because they appear to be specifically targeting Caster Semenya.
Through our department of Sport and Recreation we have established a high-level panel consisting of the Medical and Legal work-streams respectively. This panel consists of experts in both medical and legal fraternities who constitute the respective work streams. There is a third work stream constituted by the departmental personnel and its mandate is to raise public awareness and mobilise public support on the discriminatory nature of these regulations.
Work in all the streams has commenced and the high-level panel have prepared a formidable case based on legal and medical data collected, and the Legal Team will appear before CAS to present the case in support of the case lodged by both Athletic South Africa (ASA) and Ms. Caster Mokgadi Semenya. The third government stream has also started with its work, which primarily focus on mobilization of public and international support for the ASA and Caster Semenya cases, and condemnation of the Regulations, both their letter and spirit.
Ladies and gentlemen – our media colleagues, sporting fraternity, international human rights platforms and human rights advocates – it is important to take a moment to reflect on what these regulations truly mean for the little girl growing up in an African village with dreams of becoming a top sports woman. These regulations have the potential to deprive the world from seeing and experiencing the natural superiority of future athletes to come from our African soils. Ms. Semenya put it so well when she said and I quote: “It’s not about me anymore. It’s about the African girls who come from the rural areas who do not believe that they can do this…”
It is for this reason that we honour AND declare the GREATNESS OF CASTER SEMENYA!
I must thank the sporting community who have raised their hands in support, this includes our Federations.
As government we urge you media- as voice of the people to partner with us in this campaign of declaring that #NaturallySuperior. The campaign will target various sectors of local and global community and through proper channels engage Human Rights organizations and eminent persons locally and internationally in an effort to ensure that the whole world condemn these Regulations as a gross violation human right. The World once declared Apartheid as a crime against human right, we once more call people of the World to stand with us as we fight what we believe is a gross violation of human right.
As a girl from Rural Limpopo Caster continue teaching us that we can overcome adversity, that role models can come in the least expected places, that through resilience you can be a beacon of hope. I want to borrow the words of another great athletes who has faced similar challenges in her career, Ms Serena Williams “Think of all the girls who could become top athletes but quit sports because they’re afraid of having too many defined muscles and being made fun of or called unattractive.”
We therefore encourage every individual, organization and sector intolerant of discrimination, violation of human rights, particularly of women, and injustice to join and add their voice to this movement that condemn these discriminatory IAAF Regulations which in their nature seek to unfairly exclude other sections of society from competing in sport.
To Caster, please remember Tata Mandela when he said, “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” We have no doubt that in no time Caster will be rising our flag in glory as she do what she does best, collecting medals.
With this mobilisation campaign of NaturallySuperior – we honour AND declare the GREATNESS OF WOMEN – We pronounce that
Let women have the freedom to be women IN OUR SPORTING SOCIETY,
Let women have the right to participate in this society’s sporting platforms which does NOT judge their gender
Let women’s sporting performance and resultant greatness not be questioned NOR doubted.