Double Olympic champion Castor Semenya said that when she was just 18, she offered to show her vagina to track officials to prove she was a woman. She accused the world athletics body of taking a drug that “tortured” her and feared she was going to have a heart attack, according to a report in British newspaper The Telegraph on Monday.
The Telegraph published what he said were part of an interview the South African sprinter had with HBO Real Sports. The full HBO interview is scheduled to air Tuesday in the United States.
In interviews, The Telegraph said that Semenya reflected on the 2009 World Championships in Berlin, where she won the 800m world title in major fashion as an 18-year-old newcomer to her first major athletics meet. But her performance and muscular physique led the world track body to order the teenager to undergo a sex test, igniting controversy.
According to the Telegraph, Semenya said that the governing body’s track officials “probably” thought he had a penis.
“I told him, ‘It’s okay. I’m a woman, I don’t care. If you want to see I’m a woman, I’ll show you my vagina. Okay?'” Semenya told HBO, according to the Telegraph Said in an interview with Real Sports.
After winning her world title, Semenya was forced by the world track body to take drugs that artificially lowered her naturally high testosterone if she wanted to compete against other female runners. Although the world track body has never released the details of Semenya’s specific drug, it is believed that she took birth control pills or something with similar properties to lower her testosterone.
Semenya said of the drug, “It made me sick, I gained weight, I had a panic attack, I didn’t know if I was ever going to have a heart attack.” “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 make it (Olympics), that’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 compete in sports has been criticized by medical experts as being explicitly unethical. It was also never revealed what dose of the drug Semenya had to take to lower her testosterone to a level acceptable by track chiefs to allow her to run.
World Athletics attorney Jonathan Taylor also spoke to HBO Real Sports and defended the drug, which was not named, after leading experts said they would prescribe it for female athletes with high testosterone, The Telegraph reported.
Semenya also answered this.
The Telegraph quoted Semenya as saying, “Jonathan should bite off his tongue and throw it away.” “If he wants to understand how that thing has tormented me, he must go and take those drugs. He will understand.”
The 2009 World Championships was the beginning of Semenya’s 13-year battle against track officials to be able to compete against female athletes. Now 31, Semenya is banned from competing over 400 miles in top-level track meets in updated testosterone rules until he agrees to take the drug again to lower his testosterone. She has declined, and hasn’t run the 800 meters in a major meet since 2019. Rules prevented Semenya from defending her Olympic title in Tokyo last year.
Semenya has one of several conditions known as differential sex development, or DSD. This results in testosterone levels that exceed the normal female range and which World Athletics says gives her an unfair advantage against other female athletes.
She has challenged the testosterone rules twice in court, losing an appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport and the Swiss Federal Tribunal. She has launched a third appeal against them and awaits a hearing date at the European Court of Human Rights.
Semenya has rarely spoken in detail about his experiences with the world track body, formerly known as the IAAF and rebranded to World Athletics. However, details of the sometimes bitter fight surfaced in 2019 when court documents from Semenya’s first legal challenge revealed that the track body had classified him as “biologically male”. Semenya said she was “telling me I’m not a woman” on a sports body.
Semenya was identified as female at birth and has identified as female throughout her life. Yet some experts say that her high natural testosterone gives her a clear advantage over other women. Before being banned from running in the 800 in 2019, Semenya remained unbeaten in more than 30 races.
More Associated Press Sports: https://apnews.com/hub/sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports