Caster Semenya emphatically ruled out retirement after providing the perfect response on the track to the ruling demanding she take drugs or change events if she wants to continue competing as a woman.
Two days after the legal judgement which will force her to take medication to reduce her testosterone levels if she wants to be eligible to defend her world title later this year, the South African stormed to victory in the 800 metres in the opening Diamond League meeting of the season in Doha.
The two-time Olympic champion powered clear of the field to claim a comprehensive win in one minute 54.98 seconds in what could prove to be her final race over the distance.
— IAAF Diamond League (@Diamond_League) May 3, 2019
Semenya sat on the shoulder of the pacemaker early on before bursting away to win by almost three seconds. It was her 30th straight 800m victory, her time the fourth fastest of her career and the quickest in the world this year. It was some statement to her detractors.
There appeared to be little emotion at the finish, just a thumbs-up for the cameras.
Semenya, who was a late addition to the field in Doha and received a warm reception from the crowd, had hinted at retirement on social media in the wake of the CAS judgement, but emphatically ruled that out after the race.
“How the hell am I going to retire when I’m 28? I still feel young, energetic,” she was quoted as saying by BBC Sport.
“I still have 10 years or more in athletics – it doesn’t matter how I’m going to do it, what matters is I’ll still be here.”
She added: “Actions speak louder than words. When you are a great champion, you always deliver.
“It’s up to God, God has decided my life, God will end my life, God has decided my career, God will end my career. No man, or any other human, can stop me from running.”
The 28-year-old is the dominant force in women’s 800m running – a five-time global champion and the fourth fastest in history over the distance.
However, the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s decision to rule the controversial testosterone limit for female runners introduced by athletics world governing body the IAAF “necessary”, even if it is “discriminatory”, is set to have major ramifications on the rest of her career.
The stark choice facing Semenya now is: start taking hormone suppressants – the IAAF says she and other athletes with differences of sex development have until May 8 to reduce their testosterone levels to five nanomoles/Litre of blood serum – change events, with all from the 400m to the mile affected by the IAAF’s new regulations, or retire.
That final option has seemingly been ruled out, but it is not yet clear what her next move will be.
Asked if she intended to take hormone-suppressing drugs, Semenya was quoted as telling reporters: “Hell no, that’s an illegal method.”
On whether she would be moving up to the 5,000m, she said on BBC Sport: “It doesn’t matter at the moment. With this situation, you can never tell the future.”
It could be that she is pinning her hopes on a successful appeal against the CAS ruling.
Semenya is by no means the only athlete affected by the IAAF rules.
So too is Burundian Francine Niyonsaba, who finished second to Semenya in 1min 57.75secs, as she did at the 2016 Olympics and 2017 World Championships.
The arguments on both sides of the case are emotive and complex and Great Britain’s 800m runner Lynsey Sharp, who finished ninth in Doha, revealed she has received death threats for her comments about Semenya’s dominance in the past.
Speaking ahead of the Rio Olympics, the Scot said the women’s 800m at the Games would be “two races”.
“I’ve known Caster since 2008, it’s something I’ve been familiar with over the past 11 years,” she said on BBC Sport.
“No-one benefits from this situation – of course she doesn’t benefit, but it’s not me versus her, it’s not us versus them.
“I’ve had death threats. I’ve had threats against my family and that’s not a position I want to be in, it’s really unfortunate the way it’s played out.
“It’s good that there has been some sort of solution, but no-one is going to agree, unfortunately.
“By no means am I over the moon about this, it’s just been a long 11 years for everyone.”
Dina Asher-Smith also claimed an impressive victory in Doha, clocking 22.26 to win the 200m.
“I ran faster than I thought I would so I’m really happy,” she said.