The ruling of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on the case of athlete Caster Semenya was based on evidence that was neither “strong nor trustworthy”, according to world renowned sports scientist Ross Tucker.
The ruling by CAS on Wednesday means that female athletes who have elevated levels of testosterone must now take hormone suppressants to compete in certain races under International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) rules.
The challenge taken by athlete Caster Semenya, who has differences of sex development (DSD), was rejected by CAS with a two-to-one majority in a case that the court acknowledged was “discriminatory” but also “necessary, reasonable and proportionate”.
Speaking on Friday’s OTB AM, sports scientist Ross Tucker who testified to CAS regarding the Semenya case argued that the evidence cited by the IAAF was not strong enough to warrant the potential health implications that taking hormone suppressers could cause.
“I understand that this is such a complex issue that doing the perfect study is impossible. The good research here is unethical and the ethical research is just not good. But, this research was bad”, Tucker told Off The Ball.
Tucker explained that while he agrees with the theory that higher testosterone levels in female athletes is more advantageous - and hence athletes such as Semenya have an advantage - the evidence of the study used to defend the IAAF case has inherent flaws such as featuring examples of real times that seemingly never happened.
When Tucker and some of his colleagues saw the data and compared it to the real events they were supposedly based on they questioned whether some of the data was made-up, a typo or simply a mistake.
“We have no idea how you could base a decision on evidence that is so untrustworthy", he said.
“That document has to be based on some degree of evidence and the more risky the medical results or outcomes are the more robust and high quality that evidence needs to be. My read of that evidence was that it didn't come close to clearing the bar that I think it needed. It was really based on one or two studies plus a bunch of theories.”
“This is easily the most complex issue sport has to deal with, perhaps ever. Where it gets complex is there is good biological theory and concept for why you would want to do something like this but there is no good evidence for why you should do it for this group of people.”
Tucker also said that if CAS acknowledges that their ruling is discriminatory then that provides even more reason for why the evidence should be inviolable.
In addition, Tucker also argued that the ruling was fundamentally contradictory as it meant that athletes such as Semenya would be allowed to run races at 200m, 3000m and 5000m but not at 800m without hormone suppressors.
“How can the same human being in three days apart be legal on two days and then illegal another day? When your model is that testosterone gives men a performance advantage so large that it's unfair for a woman. She has that advantage every day of the week but on some days she is allowed and other days she is not. To me there are aspects to this policy that you cannot defend.”
Semenya will race in the 800m in Doha on Friday, which will be the last time she will be permitted to without taking hormone suppressors. Semenya will have the opportunity to challenge the CAS ruling.