5 Athletes Banned Because of High Testosterone Levels, Including Caster Semenya

5 Athletes Banned Because of High Testosterone Levels, Including Caster Semenya

Martin Moses
updated at August 10, 2023 at 11:32 AM
  • High testosterone levels in female athletes has always been a sore issue with a couple of cases in court
  • Caster Semenya recently won an appeal to have her case reheard after she was barred from the 800m
  • Female athletes with high testosterone levels are not allowed to compete in races from 400m to 1 mile

Like any other sporting event, major athletics competitions are always marred by off-field issues, often eliciting mixed reactions and intense debates.

The issue of doping violations has always been a hot topic, with 100-metre hurdles world record-holder, Tobi Amusan, among the elite athletes in danger of missing out on the World Athletics Championships in nine days' time.

Caster Semenya, Margaret Wambui, Francine Niyonsaba, Beatrice Masilingi, Christine Mboma, Fiordaliza Cofil, testosterone levels
Francine Niyonsaba, Caster Semenya and Margaret Wambui celebrate after winning silver, gold and bronze, respectively, in the 800m women at the Rio Olympics in 2016. Photo by Eric Feferberg.
Source: Getty Images

Apart from the stringent doping rules, a couple of female athletes have also fallen to the high testosterone rules forcing them to quit participating (or change disciplines) for a sport they have heavily invested in.

Dominican star, Fiordaliza Cofil, became the latest athlete to be trapped by this snare, with the country's newspaper, El Caribe, confirming she is out of the Budapest games.

Cofil won gold in the 4 by 400m mixed relays at last year's championships in Oregon.

Differences in sexual development

How high is too high when it comes to testosterone levels in female athletes?

The world governing body for the sport, World Athletics, stipulates that a female athlete must have testosterone levels lower than 5 nanomoles per litre, or they would be required to lower those levels, as the Guardian reports.

High testosterone levels usually mean one has higher red blood cells, which allows them to carry more oxygen in their muscles, thus boosting performance.

Men usually have a higher level which explains the faster times compared to women. World Athletics has argued that females who have high testosterone levels go against the rules of fair competition.

Sports Brief looks at some athletes who have been barred from running due to such natural complications.

1. Caster Semenya (South Africa)

Arguably the most famous case as far as this issue is concerned, Semenya has been embroiled in a long battle with authorities.

She recently won an appeal to have her case reheard, as reported by Al Jazeera. The double 800m Olympic champion has a condition known as hyperandrogenism which results in higher than usual levels of testosterone.

2. Margaret Wambui (Kenya)

Margaret Wambui won 800m bronze at the Rio Olympics in 2016 but was soon after barred from competing unless she artificially reduced her hormone levels.

She has since petitioned World Athletics to have a third category for athletes with differences in sexual development.

3. Christine Mboma and Beatrice Masilingi (Namibia)

The duo was on course to becoming the most famous athletes in their home country after the legendary Frankie Fredericks before they were barred from the Tokyo Olympics.

Then 18, the two - like their counterparts in the same category - could not understand how they could be made to take enhancements that would completely alter how their body functions.

The two now have been confined to races below 400m, with Mboma going in to win silver in the 200m at the Tokyo Games.

5. Francine Niyonsaba (Burundi)

Coincidentally, all the podium place finishers of the women's 800m at the Rio Olympics were flagged from competing in races between 400 metres and one mile.

Niyonsaba finished between the winner and Wambui in third, but the Burundian would soon find herself in the World Athletics crosshairs.

She has since upgraded to the longer versions of 5,000m and 10,000m to be eligible for World Athletics-sanctioned events.

Fraser-Pryce withdraws from 200m

Meanwhile, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce will reportedly not compete in the 200m race at the upcoming World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary.

Sports Brief reported the Jamaican star was recently named in her country's team to Budapest, where she was set to compete for gold on three fronts.

It has now emerged that Fraser-Pryce has opted out of the slightly longer version of the sprints. She finished second in the 200m national trials recently.

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Martin Moses
Martin Moses is a sports journalist with over five years of experience in media. He graduated from Multimedia University of Kenya (Bachelor of Journalism, 2017-2021)
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