Sebastian Coe: IAAF right to seek court ruling over hyperandrogenism issue

• Coe: ‘This is not a witch hunt, as nobody is cheating here’
• ‘Responsibility of the IAAF to create level playing field in female sport’

Sebastian Coe has insisted the IAAF is right to go to the courts to ensure that Caster Semenya and other athletes with hyperandrogenism are not allowed to compete unless they take action to suppress naturally high testosterone levels.

Semenya is a strong favourite to win 800m gold on Sunday night, with her two closest rivals – Burundi’s Francine Niyonsaba and Kenya’s Margaret Wambui – also both subject to the kind of innuendo that Semenya herself experienced in 2009.

Lord Coe confirmed on Saturday the IAAF will go back to the court of arbitration for sport in September or October to continue the arguments over the case of the Indian sprinter Dutee Chand, who accused the organisation of discriminating against her by setting an upper limit for the testosterone levels of female competitors. That led to Cas changing the rules – while giving the IAAF two years to prove its case.

The IAAF will argue that athletes with hyperandrogenism, such as Semenya – who was reportedly born with no womb or ovaries but internal testes – have a huge advantage over rivals because of their high testosterone levels. Coe admitted he understood the sensitivities around the case but added he had to do the right thing by his sport.

“This is an incredibly sensitive subject,” he said. “We are all fathers and brothers. I don’t want athletes being demonised but it is the responsibility of the federation to create a level playing field in female sport. We don’t want to turn this into a witch hunt. Nobody is choosing to cheat here. This is not an anti-doping issue – it is a biological one. I have to protect the sport, and of course we have done this carefully. But inevitably there is going to be conjecture and people will feel very strongly about it.

“I don’t want our sport to enter or emerge from this process as being rabid or intolerant of the situation or the condition,” added Coe. “But my ultimate responsibility is to make sure this gets resolved.”

Speaking after winning bronze in the 1500m, Semenya said that she is unconcerned about what the IAAF would do and was concentrating instead on winning 800m gold. “I really don’t have time for nonsense,” she said. “I do not think about something that might happen in eight months. I don’t focus on the IAAF. It’s not my business. My business is to train hard and see what I come up with in competition.”

Coe also confirmed he would like to see the Russian team return in time for the world championships at Doha in 2019. “I would,” he added, “because it will mean that we are satisfied their athletes have come from a clean environment.”

Only 19 Russians have competed in London as neutral athletes, with Mariya Lasitskene taking gold in the women’s high jump and three winning silver medals, including Sergey Shubenkov in the men’s 110m hurdles, Darya Klishina in the women’s long jump and Valeriy Pronkin in the men’s hammer.

“The guiding principle for me was separating the clean athletes from the tainted system,” said Coe, “Which is why we have had our doping review board go through every application. There are signs of good progress. If we get them back next year, or the year after, it will be because they have met the criteria.”

Coe also said he would like to see the World Athletics Championships come back to London sooner rather than later. “I don’t think anybody in the sport would set its face against thinking ‘We can’t be back here for 30 or 40 years’. There has to be a recognition that this stadium has been full of people morning, noon and night, and that’s a massive advantage to have.”


Sean Ingle at the London Stadium

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