Seb Coe hit out at “second-rate sociologists” who question the sport’s gender eligibility rules on the same day that Caster Semenya flopped when returning to the global stage for the first time in five years, trailing in 13th place of 18 runners in the World Championships 5,000 meter heats.
As an athlete with Differences of Sexual Development (DSD), and therefore possessing higher levels of naturally occurring testosterone than women who fit within the permitted range, double Olympic and triple world 800m champion Semenya is unable to compete over distances from 400m to one mile unless she takes hormone medication.
Refusing to do so, she first attempted to become a 200m runner before switching to the 5,000m when that failed. The South African missed out on automatic qualification for these World Championships when only finishing sixth at last month’s African Championships, but was able to belatedly qualify despite a lowly world ranking of 81 thanks to a number of dropouts.
Advancing to the final was always likely to prove beyond her, and she clocked 15 minutes 46.12 seconds – almost a minute behind Ethiopian winner Gudaf Tsegay.
“It was hot, I could not keep up with the pace, I tried to stick as much as I can, but you know, it is a part of the game,” said Semenya, 31.
“I think it is great to be able to run here. Just being able to finish the 5k, for me it is a blessing. I am learning and I am willing to learn even more.”
Earlier in the day, World Athletics president Coe insisted the governing body’s controversial DSD rules were correct. “We’ve always been guided by the science, and science is pretty clear: we know that testosterone is the key determinant in performance,” he said.
“I’m really over having any more of these discussions with second-rate sociologists who sit there trying to tell me or the science community that there may be some issue. There isn’t; testosterone is the key determinant in performance.”
He added: “We have two categories in our sport: one is age and one is gender. Age because we think it’s better that Olympic champions don’t run against 14-year-olds in community sports, and gender because if you don’t have a gender separation, no woman would ever win another sporting event.”
He also suggested other events may be added to the banned list for DSD athletes if evidence shows an advantage, insisting that the rules are “not about an individual, not about a country, not about a continent”.
Major blow for British team
Elsewhere on Wednesday, Matt Hudson-Smith was bullish about his 400m gold medal chances after narrowly missing his British record in the semi-final despite stomach trouble. He clocked 44.38 seconds to qualify second-fastest for the final.
“I can win this,” he said. “I had something left but I messed up big time on the last 50. I started striding long and it broke my speed, just like doing the chicken dance – that’s what we call it. If I correct those two things, I’m on my way through.”
Earlier, the British team suffered a major blow to their medal aspirations when Max Burgin, the fastest 800m runner in the world this year, withdrew before his heat due to a calf injury. He warmed up at the stadium, but pulled out as a precaution. In his absence, Kyle Langford and Daniel Rowden both secured places in the semi-finals.
Following up her British record in the heats, Aimee Pratt ran the race of her life in the 3,000m steeplechase final, breaking the national record again to finish seventh in 9-15.64. Kazakhstan’s Norah Jeruto won gold.