Semenya calls for financial help as legal battle hits a hurdle

Semenya’s lawyers say she needs R3.5 million before her case is heard in Strasbourg in May.

While she hopes to keep fighting international gender rules in court, Caster Semenya says her ongoing legal battle could be derailed by a lack of funds if she doesn’t receive support.

Flanked by her attorneys from Norton Rose Fulbright at a media conference in Sandton yesterday, Semenya said she had turned her focus towards her human rights court case after hanging up her spikes.

“I advocate for human rights now. I don’t want to talk anymore about sports because I’ve accomplished everything I’ve ever wanted,” Semenya said.

“This is about building young African and Asian women.”

The former Olympic and world 800m champion essentially retired from competitive athletics after being sidelined again in April last year, having lost an appeal at the Swiss Federal Court in an attempt to have World Athletics rules overturned.

Caster Semenya at the World Athletics Championships
Caster Semenya in action for South Africa during the 2022 World Athletics Championships in Eugene. Picture: Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Subsequently, however, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) found that Semenya had been discriminated against and her privacy had been violated. It also found that she had not been given a fair chance to defend herself.

Later this year, the Grand Chamber of the ECHR will hear the referred case, and a victory for Semenya could mean the door will be reopened to continue her fight against gender restrictions placed on DSD (differences of sexual development) athletes.

She hoped this would pave the way forward for other DSD athletes to potentially return to the track in women’s events.

Millions required

According to her legal team, who had offered her pro bono assistance since 2009 (along with support she had received from government and Athletics South Africa), Semenya’s lengthy battle in court had already cost around R30 million.

She now needed another R3.5 million to complete the current leg of her battle, and the world renowned athlete was reaching out in search of support.

“It has been a long journey, over a decade, and we are asking each and every person out there who is willing to help us fight this case,” Semenya said.

“As we all know, I have been facing scrutiny and criticism about my being, but I think this case is bigger than that. It’s about allowing young African and Asian girls to partake in sports.”

The Grand Chamber of the ECHR will hear Semenya’s case in Strasbourg on 15 May.