South African star Caster Semenya has revealed she offered to show World Athletics officials her vagina after they questioned whether she was a man or woman.
Semenya is currently unable to compete across a number of distances due to the World Athletics regulations for athletes with differences of sex development.
She is prohibited from competing in distances from 400 metres to a mile, but can race across 100m, 200m and any event further than 1600m.
Semenya has battled against these regulations since she burst onto the scene as an 18-year-old at the 2009 World Championships.
After clinching the 800m world title, Semenya was subject to a gender verification process by World Athletics. She has now described her experience on HBO’s Real Sports.
“They thought I had a dick, probably,” she said. “I told them: ‘It’s fine. I’m a female, I don’t care. If you want to see I’m a woman, I will show you my vagina. All right?’”
Semenya has a condition known as hyperandrogenism, which is characterised by higher than usual levels of testosterone.
World Athletics introduced an upper limit for women’s testosterone levels – set at 10nmol/L – in 2011. It meant Semenya was forced to take testosterone-reducing medication in order to compete.
Caster Semenya on @RealSportsHBO this week. On when she took testosterone-suppressing medication for eligibility: "I didn't know if I was having a heart attack. It's like stabbing yourself with a knife every day, but I had no choice." pic.twitter.com/QzGMieyCqD— Nick Zaccardi (@nzaccardi) May 23, 2022
“It made me sick, made me gain weight, panic attacks, I don’t know if I was ever going to have a heart attack,” Semenya said.
“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 to Olympics, that’s the only option for me.”
Semenya also criticised World Athletics lawyer Jonathan Taylor, who also appeared on HBO’s Real Sports.
“Jonathan must cut his tongue and throw it away. If he wants to understand how that thing has tortured me, he must go and take those medications. He will understand.”
World Athletics introduced new regulations in 2018, prohibiting athletes with DSD from competing between 400m and a mile if they have testosterone levels greater than 5nmol/L.
Semenya, a two-time Olympic gold medallist in the 800m, unsuccessfully appealed these regulations at the Court of Arbitration for Sport and Switzerland’s Federal Supreme Court.
The 31-year-old is currently awaiting a hearing at the European Court of Human Rights.