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Caster Semenya gets reprieve from discriminatory regulations, but it’s not all it’s cracked up to be

Wednesday, June 5th, 2019

On Monday, news outlets around the globe ran headlines reporting that South African middle-distance runner Caster Semenya won an important court battle. The two-time Olympic champion in the 800 meters had filed an appeal last week to challenge the Court of Arbitration in Sports’ (CAS) ruling that she must artificially lower her testosterone levels in order to compete in her best events.

The Swiss Federal Supreme Court (SFT) provided Monday’s announcement on the matter, ruling that the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) would have to temporarily suspend its testosterone regulations for Semenya, while her appeal awaits decision. As such, she is currently permitted to participate in competition without having to self-administer hormone treatments.

But while these headlines provide an optimistic spin on these events, they hardly paint a realistic picture.

First of all, the suspension of CAS’s ruling is very temporary — right now, it only lasts until June 25, 2019. Furthermore, this three-week grace period only applies to Semenya. Any other women with naturally-occurring levels of testosterone above five nanamoles per liter (nmol/L) are still required to undergo medical treatment to artificially suppress their testosterone levels if they want to compete in IAAF events from 400 meters to a mile.

It’s fair to say that this decision has left athletes more perplexed than ever.

“There’s widespread confusion and even panic among athletes and coaches about whether they can compete, at what level, and what this implementation means for them,” Dr. Katrina Karazis, a senior visiting fellow at Yale University’s Global Health Justice Partnership and co-author of Testosterone: An Unauthorized Biography, told ThinkProgress.

Semenya has been battling the IAAF for the right to run in the body she was born in for 10 years now, ever since she first burst onto the scene at the 2009 World Championships. In May, CAS upheld the ability of the IAAF to target athletes with disorders of sex development (DSD). People with DSD — a condition which is commonly referred to as intersex — might have hormones, genes, or reproductive organs that develop outside the gender binary.

CAS agreed with Semenya that the IAAF regulations were discriminatory. However, the majority of the people serving on that panel endorsed the decision anyway.

“The Panel found that the DSD Regulations are discriminatory, but the majority of the Panel found that, on the basis of the evidence submitted by the parties, such discrimination is a necessary, reasonable, and proportionate means of achieving the IAAF’s aim of preserving the integrity of female athletics in the Restricted Events,” the ruling states.

In her appeal, Semenya’s team argued that forcing Semenya and other women with DSD to artificially suppress their testosterone levels is a human rights violation. However, on Tuesday, the IAAF released a defiant open letter to a group of women’s rights organizations that have opposed the testosterone regulations. The letter provides a window into the IAAF’s mindset, painting the members of the governing body as angered at having their wisdom challenged. And the IAAF is not only is it doubling down on its decision, it is doing everything short of explicitly calling Semenya a man along the way.

“It is not fair and meaningful for biological women (with XX chromosomes that lead to ovaries that produce much lower levels of testosterone) to compete against men,” the letter reads.

“The challenge that the IAAF faces is how to accommodate individuals who identify as female (and are legally recognised as female) but who — because of a difference of sex development — have XY chromosomes that lead to testes that produce high levels of testosterone, and therefore have all the same physical advantages over women for the purposes of athletics as men have over women,” it continues.

It is worth noting that if Semenya competed against the men, her time in the 800 meters would not put her anywhere near even qualifying for the Olympics.

“I am a woman and I am a world-class athlete,” Semenya said in her appeal last week. “The IAAF will not drug me or stop me from being who I am.”

For now, the IAAF will have until June 25 to fight this temporary suspension. If it does not get the suspension overturned, or misses the deadline, Semenya will be able to continue to compete in her best events in the body she was born in until there is a ruling on her appeal — a process that could take a year or more, depending on the SFT’s actions.

But this narrow ruling will have consequences in the meantime, as all other women with DSDs will have to either take medication, undergo invasive surgery, or abandon events between 400 meters and one mile if they want to continue to compete against women in elite competitions. If the temporary suspension is overturned on June 25, Semenya has stated that she will not take medication or suppress her testosterone levels in any way; she plans to compete in events longer than one mile, such as the 2,000 meters.

Semenya is scheduled to compete in one event in the next three weeks, the Meeting de Montreuil outside of Paris, France, on June 11.

This article was originally published in ThinkProgress on June 4, 2019. Reprinted with permission. 

About the Author: Lindsay Gibbs covers sports. SportsReporter CoHost  Tennis  Mystics   

Undefeated Olympic U.S. Women’s Soccer Team Is Still Fighting For Equal Pay

Wednesday, August 10th, 2016

Bryce CovertThe U.S. women’s soccer team is already on a roll at the Olympics in Rio.

So far, they haven’t lost a single game they’ve played, winning against New Zealand and France and tying with Colombia. They didn’t even give up a goal during the first two games and are now first in their group. They’re well on their way toward gold.

Yet the victorious streak comes amid their continuing fight to be paid equally with the U.S. men’s team, which didn’t even qualify to participate in this year’s summer Olympics.

In March, five stars on the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT)?—?Carli Lloyd, Becky Sauerbrunn, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, and Hope Solo?—?filed a complaint on behalf of everyone on the women’s team with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). They alleged that the U.S. Soccer Federation unfairly pays female players less than those on the men’s team.

In their complaint, the players claimed that they are paid almost four times less than the men’s team players. For example, the women say they are paidjust $1,350 each for winning a friendly match and nothing for a tie or loss, compared to $9,375 for a men’s victory (even more if they win against a top-ranked team), $6,250 for a tie, and $5,000 for a loss.

The women’s team has a contract specifying that top-tier players get $72,000 a year as a base salary, while the men aren’t guaranteed payment. But the complaint pointed out that if the USWNT were to lose all 20 friendlies in a season, a player would get $72,000, while if it won all 20 she would get $99,000. The men, on the other hand, get $100,000 a year for losing all 20 friendlies, $1,000 more than a victorious female player. Meanwhile, they get about $263,000 each for winning all 20 matches–38 percent more than a winning women’s player.

The women’s team also gets nothing for playing in World Cup matches until they get into fourth place, even though the men’s team gets payment for each game played regardless of the result. They got just $2 million for winning the World Cup last year, while the U.S. men’s team earned $8 million for losing in the first round. Meanwhile, the German team that won the men’s World Cup got $35 million.

The women have argued that their pay is unfair in part because the men are compensated more for just showing up, while the women have to perform at world champion levels to get comparable pay.

The current team has been ranked number one in the world for 12 of the last 13 years, won three World Cups, and got the gold at four of the five Olympics that included women’s soccer?—?so they’re getting unequal pay for unequal work. Another gold medal would only add to their pile of accomplishments.

But the U.S. Soccer Federation, the target of the USWNT lawsuit, has fired back.

In June, it filed a response with the EEOC in which it called accusations of discrimination “unwarranted, unfounded, and untrue.” It also claims that the women’s team players are actually paid more than the men. The team’s compensation “is comparable to (and in many cases better than) the compensation U.S. Soccer provides to the MNT,” it says in the filing.

Without going into a detailed breakdown of pay, the Federation notes that among all USWNT players who got any pay between 2012 and 2015, their average compensation was $279,743?—?about $90,000 more than average compensation for a men’s team player over the same time period.

The Federation also argues that the five players who brought the complaint were paid more than the top five highest-paid members of the USMNT when World Cup money is taken out of the picture. Yet when that income is included, the five female players earned 3.8 percent less than the men?—?despite winning the cup. Meanwhile, the Federation’s response also admits that the 14 women who are among the 25 highest-earning U.S. soccer players earned 2.2 percent less, on average, than the men in the same group.

The biggest inequalities show up at the bottom, not at the top, of the pay scales. According to data obtained by the New York Times dating back to 2008, the 25th highest-paid female player made about $341,000, compared to $580,000 for the corresponding male player, and the male player in the 50th slot made 50 times more than the female one.

The Federation argues that if there are any pay differences, they should be chalked up to the fact that the men’s team has historically generated higher ratings and more revenue. The men’s team brought in about $144 million between 2008 and 2015, according to the Federation’s filing, compared to $53 million from the women’s team. Attendance at USMNT games was more than double that of USWNT games between 2001 and 2015.

Meanwhile, although it admits that the women’s World Cup final got “unprecedented” TV ratings last year, it argues that historically men draw twice the viewership.

The fight has garnered attention from the U.S. Senate, where Patty Murray (D-WA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) have been looking into why the two teams are paid different amounts. After viewing the data provided in the Federation’s response, the two senators sent it a letter asking for more information about the revenue it gets from TV contracts and the efforts it makes to promote the women’s team. They also pointed out that the Federation’s own data shows that viewership for the Women’s World Cup last year set a record, and not just for the final match.

“We remain focused on the pressing issue of pay equity for the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team,” they wrote. “We, along with millions of women’s soccer fans, are looking forward to rooting for the Women’s Team as they compete in the summer Olympic Games in Brazil.”

The differences between revenue and viewership also don’t take into account the systemic and historic disadvantages that women’s soccer has faced. Nor has either side in the dispute brought up other disparities like being made to fly coach while the men fly business class or racking up a third of the men’s teams expenses over a year.

Since filing the complaint, the USWNT has continued to be vocal about their cause. At a match in July, they sported t-shirts that read #EqualPayEqualPlay and took to social media to discuss the pay gap. It remains to be seen if they bring the issue up as they go for gold in Rio.

This article originally appeared at ThinkProgress.org on August 10, 2016. Reprinted with permission. 

Bryce Covert  is the Economic Policy Editor for ThinkProgress. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, The New York Daily News, New York Magazine, Slate, The New Republic, and others. She has appeared on ABC, CBS, MSNBC, and other outlets.

IBEW Father and Daughter’s Long Journey to Sochi Short Track

Monday, February 17th, 2014

Image: Mike HallSpringfield, Mo., Electrical Workers (IBEWLocal 453 member Craig Scott is in Sochi, Russia, this week watching his daughter Emily compete for Olympic gold in several short track speed skating events.  But it wasn’t an easy journey for father or daughter

Emily, 25, was a world champion inline skater before taking up short track speed skating about five years ago. But with the U.S. Speedskating cutting her funding last year, a part-time job not bringing in enough to pay the bills or give her time to train and a crowdfunding effort falling short, Emily was on the verge of giving up her dream.

But a USA Today profile of her struggles sparked nearly $50,000 in donations and allowed her to quit her job and focus on training and making the Olympic team.

Now with Emily whose events run through this week, and with Scott in Sochi to cheer her on, he says:

It’s taken a little while to sink in. It’s 20 years of hard work, and finally everything has sort of come together.

Read more coverage from the News-Leader here and here, and check the paper’s website for updates.

See Six Fun Facts About Short Track Skater Emily Scott from NBCOlympics.com and more from U.S. Speedskating.

This article was originally printed on AFL-CIO on February 17, 2014.  Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Mike Hall is a former West Virginia newspaper reporter, staff writer for the United Mine Workers Journaland managing editor of the Seafarers Log.  He came to the AFL- CIO in 1989 and has written for several federation publications, focusing on legislation and politics, especially grassroots mobilization and workplace safety.

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