Olympian says she offered to show track officials her body

(AP) – Two-time Olympic champion Caster Semenya says she offered to show her vagina to athletics officials when she was just 18 to prove she was a woman. In an interview with HBO Real Sports, she also accused athletics’ world governing body of making her take drugs if she wanted to compete, which “tortured” her and left her fearing a heart attack.

HBO Real Sports aired excerpts from its interview with the South African runner in a promotional clip on Monday. The full interview is set to air Tuesday in the United States.

In the interview, Semenya discussed the 2009 World Championships in Berlin, where she won the 800 meters title in dominant fashion as an 18-year-old newcomer in her first major international competition. But her performance and muscular physique led the sport’s governing body to insist that the teenager undergo sex testing, sparking a storm of controversy.

Semenya said the governing body’s track officials “probably” think she has a penis.

“I told them, ‘It’s okay. I’m a woman. I do not care. If you want to see that I’m a woman, I’ll show you my vagina. Very well?'”

After her world title win, Semenya was forced by the International Athletics Federation to take drugs that artificially lowered her naturally high testosterone if she wanted to compete against other runners. Although the global trail body never released details of Semenya’s specific medications, it is believed that she took birth control pills or something with similar properties to lower her testosterone.

“It made me sick, made me gain weight, panic attacks. I didn’t know if I was going to have a heart attack,” Semenya said of the drugs. “It’s like stabbing yourself with a knife every day, but I had no choice.

“I’m 18, I want to run. I want to go to the Olympics, it’s the only option for me. But I had to make it work.

Forcing athletes to take drugs to alter natural hormone levels in order to participate in sports has been criticized by medical experts as unethical. Although the drug Semenya received was not named, it is also unclear what dose she had to take to lower her testosterone to a level deemed acceptable for her to run.

World Athletics lawyer Jonathan Taylor also spoke to HBO Real Sports and defended the drug, saying leading experts said they would prescribe it to female athletes with high testosterone.

Semenya also responded to this.

“Jonathan has to cut his tongue out and throw it away,” Semenya said. “If he wants to understand how this thing tortured me, he has to go and take these drugs. He will understand.

The 2009 world championships marked the beginning of Semenya’s 13-year battle with track authorities to compete against female athletes. Now 31, Semenya is banned from competing at distances ranging from 400 meters to the mile in high-level competitions at updated testosterone regulations unless she agrees to take testosterone-lowering drugs again. She declined and has not run an 800 meter race at a major competition since 2019. prevented Semenya from defending her Olympic title last year in Tokyo.

Semenya has one of many conditions called differences in sex development, or DSD. This results in a testosterone level above the typical female range and which World Athletics says gives her an unfair advantage over other female athletes.

She has challenged testosterone regulations twice in court, losing appeals to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and the Swiss Federal Court. She has launched a third appeal and is awaiting a hearing date to be set at the European Court of Human Rights.

Semenya has rarely spoken in detail about his experiences with the sport’s international governing body, which was previously known as the IAAF and renamed World Athletics. However, details of the sometimes bitter battle were revealed in 2019 when court documents from Semenya’s first legal challenge revealed that the track’s body categorized her as “biologically male.” Semenya said she was outraged that a sports body was “telling me I’m not a woman”.

Semenya was identified as female at birth and has identified as female throughout her life. Still, some experts say her high natural testosterone gives her a distinct advantage over other women. Before being banned from running in the 800m in 2019, Semenya went over 30 races unbeaten.

Naomi C. Amerson