WMA Welcomes European Court of Human Rights siding with Caster Semenya

The World Medical Association (WMA) and the Yale Global Health Justice Partnership (GHJP) welcome the recent decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Semenya v. Switzerland. The Court found Switzerland in breach of its obligations under the European Convention regarding Caster Semenya’s rights to non-discrimination, respect for private life, and an effective remedy. The case underscores the crucial connection between medical ethics and human rights in sports. The ruling can be referred to the Grand Chamber of the Court.

The ECHR acknowledged the need for robust mechanisms to protect the human rights of elite athletes. WMA and GHJP had submitted an amicus brief in support of Ms. Semenya’s challenge, emphasizing the impact of the regulations on medical ethics and rights.
The brief highlighted the “choice” forced upon women athletes with naturally higher testosterone levels: undergo risky medical interventions or abandon their profession.

Requiring doctors to participate in non-medically indicated interventions for compliance with sports rules threatens medical ethics and athletes’ human rights especially, if they are forced-upon. The Court recognized the relevance of these arguments in reaching its decision.

While welcoming the ECHR’s decision, WMA and GHJP remain concerned that the World Athletics eligibility regulations persist, violating the rights of Semenya and other women athletes with naturally high testosterone.

WMA and GHJP urge a reevaluation of sports eligibility regulations to ensure they respect human rights and medical ethics principles, protecting the wellbeing and dignity of athletes worldwide.