By Staff Reporter
WINDHOEK, March 28 — Namibia’s Sports Minister Agnes Tjongarero has criticized World Athletics (WA) for banning athletes with high levels of testosterone from competing. The new rule comes into effect this month and requires athletes with Differences in Sexual Development (DSD) to reduce the amount of blood testosterone to below 2.5 nanomoles per litre.
This decision will render Namibia’s top sprinters, Christine Mboma and Beatrice Masilingi, ineligible to compete in any international competition. South Africa’s double 800m Olympic and world champion Caster Semenya as well as Burundi’s Francine Niyonsaba, who finished runner-up to Semenya in the 800m race at the 2016 Olympics, will also be affected.
Tjongarero expressed her disappointment with the new rule, stating that the timing of the decision was unfair, as it always happens when they are preparing for major competitions. She also expressed concern about the potential side effects of the remedies used to reduce testosterone levels, which could have negative long-term impacts on the athletes’ bodies. Tjongarero revealed that a committee had been set up in the past with members from the Namibia National Olympic Committee (NNOC) and Athletics Namibia (AN) to fight the decision, but it had not received any response from Athletic South Africa (ASA) and its government.
Mboma’s coach Henk Botha expressed shock at the decision and said that his team remained positive and would work with a medical team to get Christine back on track as soon as possible. Meanwhile, Newton Agency, under which Masilingi trains, is yet to respond to questions on the athlete’s future.
The new rules will now encompass all track events, a change from previous restrictions that only affected events ranging from 400m to a mile. However, interim provisions will be put in place for DSD athletes already in competition outside the previously restricted distances. They will only be required to suppress their testosterone levels for six months before competing in any World Athletics-sanctioned event.
The decision to ban athletes with high levels of testosterone has been a controversial one, with many critics arguing that it discriminates against female athletes with DSD. The debate surrounding the rule is expected to continue as the affected athletes seek to challenge it. – Namibia Daily News