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Semenya vows no world championships if she can't run 800 meters

STANFORD, California (Reuters) - Olympic champion Caster Semenya said on Sunday she would not defend her world title in Doha next September if she could not run in the 800 meters because of new testosterone regulations imposed by the sport’s governing body.

Jun 30, 2019; Stanford, CA, USA; Caster Semnya (RSA) wins the women's 800m in 1:55.70 during the 45th Prefontaine Classic at Cobb Track & Angell Field. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

“If I am not running 800 meters, I’m not running in the world championships,” the 28-year-old South African said after winning her favorite event in one minute, 55.70 at the Prefontaine Classic Diamond League meeting.

“No 1,500 (meters), nothing. I am just going to take a vacation, and then come (back to competing) next year.”

But Semenya, who is challenging International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) testosterone rules that could affect her career, is looking towards the next three Olympics.

“I expect to be in Tokyo, Paris and Los Angeles,” she said

The South African repeated that she would not take medication to satisfy the IAAF regulations, which are currently on hold for her after a court ruling.

Under the rules, XY chromosome athletes with differences in sexual development (DSDs), like Semenya, must take medication to lower their natural testosterone levels if they are to compete at distances from 400m to a mile.

Testosterone is a hormone that increases muscle mass, strength and hemoglobin and the IAAF said its own research showed it gave a significant endurance advantage to athletes in the 400 meters to mile range.

Semenya has refused to take the medication, saying: “I am a woman and I am a world-class athlete. The IAAF will not drug me or stop me from being who I am.”

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But the South African said that even if she eventually lost her case, she planned to continue competing.

“There are a lot of races that I can do, there are a lot of stuff that I can do,” she said.

“I am a talented athlete. I can play football (soccer), I can play basketball, I can do anything, I can run 100, I can run 200, I can run the steeple(chase), I can do anything I want.”

But the first objective is to win her case against the IAAF regulations.

“This is like a legal battle,” Semenya said. “It’s like war. You don’t give up. You beat me today, I beat you tomorrow.

“But I am not doing this for me. I am a world champion, I have achieved everything I ever wanted.

“At the end of the day I am doing this for those who can’t fight for themselves.”


Semenya charged ahead about 600 meters into Sunday’s race and won by almost 15 meters over American record holder Ajee Wilson to claim her 31st consecutive final in the event. She last lost an 800 meters final in Berlin on Sept. 6, 2015.

The race was the fastest ever run in the United States, but the three-time world champion said she felt sluggish.

“I (would be) still sleeping at home,” she said, noting it was about midnight in South Africa.

The competition was Semenya’s first since the Swiss Federal Tribunal said she did not have to adhere to the IAAF regulations until her appeal against a Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruling in favor of the new rules is decided.

The IAAF has said the regulations are necessary to preserve the integrity of female athletics in the restricted events.

Earlier, Kenya’s world record holder Beatrice Chepkoech cruised to the fifth fastest time in the women’s 3,000 meters steeplechase, 8:55.58.

American Rai Benjamin showed he was ready to challenge for his first world 400 meter hurdles title when he ran 47.16 seconds - the ninth fastest of all time.

Christian Coleman also produced a 2019-leading time, winning the 100 meters in 9.81 seconds, as 37-year-old world champion Justin Gatlin showed he will again be a factor in Doha after taking second in 9.87.

Kenyan Tim Cheruiyot added the year’s fastest mile, 3:50.49. Michael Norman won the 400 meters in 44.62 and Swedish teenager Mondo Duplantis topped world champion Sam Kendricks in the pole vault, clearing 5.93 meters.

Reporting by Gene Cherry in Stanford, California; Editing by Ken Ferris