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Semenya back on track after challenging IAAF rules

By AFP 29 June 2018

Caster Semenya will bid to put her run-in with the IAAF over controversial new rules on testosterone behind her when she makes her Paris debut on Saturday in the seventh leg of the Diamond League.

by Luke PHILLIPS

Semenya is unbeaten over the 800m since her elimination in the semi-finals of the 2015 worlds in Beijing.

She has run the fastest time of the season, clocking 1min 55.92sec in Eugene, but she will have to better her own personal best by 0.19sec should she aim for the meet record of 1:54.97, held since 2008 by the Kenyan Pamela Jelimo.

Semenya, double Olympic champion (2012, 2016) and twice world champion (2009, 2017), faces some tough competition in the shape of American Ajee Wilson, Burundi’s Olympic silver medallist and reigning world champ Francine Nyonsaba, Ethiopian Habitam Alemu and Kenyan Margaret Wambui, bronze medallist at the Rio Games in 2016.

Off the track, Semenya has turned to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in her challenge of IAAF rules on testosterone occurring in female athletes that are to be introduced on November 1.

The powerfully-built Semenya is potentially the highest-profile female athlete that would be affected by such regulations.

Classified as “hyper-androgynous”, athletes like Semenya would have to chemically lower their testosterone levels to be able to compete, something the 800m runner says is discriminatory and in violation of the IAAF’s Constitution and the Olympic Charter.

“We will support our athletes on the grounds that the regulations discriminate against certain female athletes on the basis of natural physical characteristics and/or sex,” Athletics South Africa head Aleck Skhosana said after a meeting with IAAF president Sebastian Coe in London on Tuesday.

Semenya is just one high-profile athlete at what promises to be high-quality meet at Stade Charlety in southern Paris.

Home favourite Renaud Lavillenie tops pole vault lists this season, with a 5.95m in April.

But hot on his heels are the Swedish prodigy Armand Duplantis, the 18-year-old going over at 5.93m in May — a new junior world record — and American world champion Sam Kendricks, Canadian Shawn Barber (5.92m in 2018), Poles Piotr Lisek and Pawel Wojciechowski, and Brazilian Thiago Braz, reigning Olympic champion.

One of the stars to have emerged this season is undoubtedly naturalised Qatari 400m hurdler Abderrahman Samba.

Samba has only been doing the event for two years, but has enjoyed an explosive start to the season, racking up Diamond League victories in Doha, Rome, Oslo and Stockholm, running an Asian record of 47.41sec at the latter.

Samba will again face Karsten Warholm, the Norwegian who caused arguably the biggest upset of the London worlds when he won gold.

The women’s high jump will see defending double world champion Mariya Lasitskene, with a best of 2.03m this season, go for a 44th consecutive victory.

That field also includes Belgium’s Nafissatou Thiam, the Olympic and world heptathlon champion (2.01m in 2018), and Bulgarian Mirela Demireva (2.00m). DM

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