Namibia unhappy with WA’s new ruling on athletes

Namibia’s Sports Min­ister, Agnes Tjongarero, has expressed disappointment with World Athletics (WA) over its new ruling, which will mean the country’s Tokyo 2020 200 metres silver medalist, Christine Mbo­ma and fourth-placed, Beatrice Masilingi will be ineligible for this summer’s World Athletics Champi­onships.

The sport’s governing body an­nounced on Thursday (March 23) that female athletes with differenc­es in sexual development (DSD), resulting in high naturally occurring levels of testosterone, will need to reduce their amount of blood testosterone to below 2.5 nanomo­les per litre – half of the previously accepted level of five nanomoles – for a minimum of 24 months.

The restriction on testosterone levels previously applied to events between 400 metres and a mile, which caused Mboma to move down to the shorter sprint, but as from March 31 all events will be included.

There is an interim ruling for athletes competing in events out­side the previous restricted range, whereby they will have to suppress testosterone levels below 2.5nmo­l/L for a minimum of six months before competing.

But while this would apply to Mboma, she will not have time to fulfil the requirement before this summer’s World Athletics Cham­pionships in Budapest, due to take place from August 19 to 27.

Mboma’s compatriot Masilingi, who finished fourth behind her at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, is in the same situation.

Others affected by the new DSD regulations include South Africa’s double 800m Olympic and world champion, Caster Semenya and Burundi’s Francine Niyonsaba, who was runner-up to Semenya in the Rio 2016 800m final.

Tjongarero said that the timing of the decision was unfair, given that athletes are preparing for major events such as the World Championships and the Paris 2024 Olympics,

“I believe these girls won’t be able to run forever, and even if they take those remedies to reduce their level of testosterone, it will have side effects on their bodies, which will be bad in the long run,” she said.

When asked about the Namib­ian Government’s role in fighting the decision, Tjongarero said that a committee had been set up in the past with members from the Namibia National Olympic Com­mittee (NNOC) and Athletics Na­mibia (AN) to fight the decision.

“The problem is that we are ex­pected to avoid fighting such issues because it would be considered Government interference.

“We even advised the commit­tee to reach out to Athletic South Africa and its Government to seek help on how they fought Caster Se­menya’s case, but we didn’t receive any response.

“Now the issue has resurfaced, and unless I have to make another call, it will remain unresolved.”

Mboma’s coach, Henk Botha, told BBC Sport Africa it was a bit of a shock to receive it without any prior notice once again.

“Our team, however, remains positive and will work with a med­ical team to get Christine back on track as soon as possible,” he said.—

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