Caster Semenya v. International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF), in which Sidley represented the South African two-time Olympic champion in her fight to compete again, has been listed as a finalist at the 2021 GAR Awards. The case has been shortlisted for the “Most Important Decision” award. The Sidley team comprised Geneva partners Dr. Dorothee Schramm and David Roney.
At the heart of the case were controversial new eligibility rules implemented by the IAAF that required Caster to lower her natural testosterone level in order to compete in certain international competitions. After losing a case in 2019 against the IAAF at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), Caster turned to Sidley for help with an appeal. The Sidley team achieved a quick initial victory when the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland ordered the IAAF to immediately temporarily suspend implementation of the eligibility regulations against Caster. This rare interim victory allowed her to immediately resume competing and win Stanford’s Prefontaine Classic on June 30, 2019. But on September 8, 2020 Sidley and Caster lost the appeal against the CAS award made to Switzerland’s highest court. While the Court accepted that the IAAF’s requirements for medical interventions seriously violate Caster’s physical integrity, it considered this insufficient for a violation of essential and widely-recognized public policy values.
This case is at the very core of international public policy, including the prohibition against discrimination, the right to health and physical integrity, and respect for human dignity. Dorothee Schramm said “This decision is a call to action — as a society, we cannot allow a sports federation to override the most fundamental of human rights.” Caster’s race for justice will continue, and Sidley will continue to raise its voice against discrimination and against putting sporting interests and economic interests of one athlete above the health and physical integrity of another athlete.