Champion runner Caster Semenya opened up about her fight to compete against other women in track events without having to reduce her testosterone levels.
Semenya was born with a difference in sex development (DSD). She was legally identified as female at birth but has a medical condition that leads to some male traits, including increased levels of testosterone.
The 32-year-old South African runner and others have been able to compete without restrictions in events outside the range of 400 meters through one mile but now have to undergo hormone-suppressing treatment for six months before competing to become eligible. World Athletics tightened the rules earlier this year.
“For me, I believe if you are a woman, you are a woman,” she told BBC in a recent interview. “I have realized I want to live my life and fight for what I think and I believe in myself. I don’t care about the medical terms or what they tell me. Being born without a uterus or internal testicles. Those don’t make me less of a woman. I am a woman and have a vagina just like any other woman.”
Under the new regulations, athletes in previously “unrestricted” events would have to suppress testosterone levels below 2.5 nanomoles per liter of blood for six months and stay before those levels for two years.
Semenya has fought in court over the rulings. The European Couty of Human Rights ruled in her favor in July in her battle against the rules about suppressing her natural testosterone. But the ruling didn’t strike down the athletics regulation for the two-time Olympic champion.
“I am not going to be ashamed because I am different. The importance of women’s sport is not being taken seriously and we need to take charge of our own bodies. Decide what is right for us. Not another gender deciding what we should look like. I am not going to be somebody I am not.”
She added that she was going “to fight injustice, fight for inclusivity and diversity” as she’s not expected to participate in the Paris Olympics.
Semenya won gold at the 2016 Olympics. In the same event, silver medalist Francine Niyonsaba and the bronze winner Margaret Nyairera Wambui are intersex athletes. Semenya also won gold in the 2012 London Olympics. Both gold wins came in the 800-meter race.