Olympian Caster Semenya is sharing her frustration with trying to prove her womanhood to track officials in order to compete.
In a new interview with HBO Real Sports, which aired this week, the 31-year-old South African track star recalled how, as a teenager, she offered to show her body to officials at World Athletics to prove she was a female. World Athletics is the international governing body for track and field.
According to Reuters, Semenya, came onto the scene in 2009 as an 18-year-old rookie. She won the women’s 800m at the World Athletics Championships in Berlin by a stunning margin and then was subjected to sex verification testing. Since then, she has faced years of scrutiny about her gender.
“They thought I had a d–k probably,” she said in the interview. “I told them, ‘It’s fine. I’m a female. I don’t care. If you want to see I’m a woman, I will show you my vagina. Alright?’ “
Semenya has a condition known as hyperandrogenism, which means that her body produces elevated levels of testosterone. This hormone increases muscle mass and strength as well as the body’s ability to use oxygen, Reuters reports.
In order to compete against other female athletes, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) mandated that Semenya to take an unnamed medication that would lower her naturally high testosterone levels.
“It made me sick, made me gain weight, panic attacks. I didn’t know if I was ever going to have a heart attack,” Semenya said of the medication. “It’s like stabbing yourself with a knife every day. But I had no choice. I’m 18. I want to run. I want to make it to (the) Olympics. That’s the only option for me. But I had to make it work.”
Jonathan Taylor, a lawyer for World Athletics, was also interviewed for the episode and defended the regulations for athletes with sex development differences. He claimed the medications are not harmful because they are recommended by “the world’s leading experts.”
“Jonathan must cut his tongue and throw it away,” Semenya said in the episode responding to Taylor. “If he wants to understand how that thing has tortured me, he must go and take those medications. He will understand.”
According to People.com, Semenya hasn’t competed in an 800m race at a major event since 2019, preventing the track star from defending her Olympic title in Tokyo last year.
In 2020, Semenya lost an appeal to the Swiss Federal Tribunal to set aside a 2019 ruling which requires female athletes with high natural testosterone levels to take medication to reduce it.