Two-time Olympic gold medallist Caster Semenya has received a significant financial boost in her bid to overturn World Athletics' rules to allow her to compete in her favoured events at this year’s Tokyo 2020 Games.
The South African Government’s Department of Sport, Arts and Culture has pledged R12 million (£576,600/$803,000/€671,500) to help Semenya appeal to the European Court of Human Rights against her testosterone ruling, according to newspaper The South African.
The funding pledge comes after Athletics South Africa asked the department to support Semenya’s quest to defend her 800 metres Olympic title.
Semenya is hoping to reverse a rule that would force her to take testosterone-suppressing medication to compete in her best events.
The World Athletics’ rules, which went into effect in 2019, cap athlete testosterone levels in women’s events from the 400m through the mile for athletes with differences of sexual development (DSD).
World Athletics said that no female athletes would have a level above the cap - five nanomoles per litre - unless they had a DSD or a tumour.
Semenya has lost appeals at the Court of Arbitration for Sport and the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland against the World Athletics regulations over the past two years.
Last month South Africa’s Government confirmed it was planning to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.
Yesterday, Sports Minister Nathi Mthethwa pledged to help fund Semenya’s efforts when answering parliamentary questions.
"The department has also been approached by the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (DIRCO) after they received a letter from the Commission for Gender Equality, which expressed interest in the matter and requested support from the Government to co-ordinate solidarity against World Athletics Female Athletes Classification Regulations," Mthethwa said in a report by The South African.
Mthethwa also said the Government had communicated with DIRCO to sponsor a resolution at the Human Rights Council.
"The hope that the appeal at the European Court of Human Rights may be successful is largely informed by this development and as a Government renowned for the protection and promotion of human rights, we should take an interest in the matter, moreover because our own shining star, Ms Semenya, is being targeted," added Mthethwa.
World Athletics has consistently said the rules are necessary to ensure female athletes can participate on fair and equal terms.
Semenya will be supported by a legal team led by Norton Rose Fulbright lawyers Gregory Nott and Patrick Bracher in Johannesburg, as well as Christina Dargham in Paris.
London based barristers Schona Jolly and Claire McCann, and Toronto-based lawyers James Bunting and Carlos Sayao are also part of Semenya’s legal team.
"I hope the European Court will put an end to the longstanding human rights violations by World Athletics against women athletes," said Semenya.
"All we ask is to be allowed to run free, for once and for all, as the strong and fearless women we are and have always been."