(Reuters) – The verdict of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in the case of Caster Semenya raises “serious questions” about the validity of World Athletics’ requirement that female athletes with high natural testosterone levels take drugs to lower it, the South African athlete said on Wednesday.

The ECHR ruled, by a slender majority of four votes to three, on Tuesday that the double Olympic 800m champion’s original appeal against World Athletics regulations had not been properly heard by the Swiss Federal Tribunal, criticising the process followed rather than the verdict reached.

Semenya, 32, is an athlete with XY chromosomes and differences in sexual development (DSDs). She has a condition known as hyperandrogenism, which is characterised by higher than usual levels of testosterone, a hormone that increases muscle mass and strength, and the body’s ability to use oxygen.

She has been fighting the regulations put in place in May 2019 which force her to medically lower her testosterone levels in order to compete.

“I am elated at the outcome of the ruling. It has been a long time coming,” Semenya said in a statement. “I have and will always stand up for discrimination of any kind in sports. I have suffered a lot at the hands of the powers that be and have been treated poorly.

“The hard work that I have put in to being the athlete I am, has been questioned. My rights violated. My career impacted. All of it so damaging. Mentally, emotionally, physically and financially.”

Reuters understands the Swiss government intends to refer Tuesday’s ruling to the ECHR Grand Chamber for review. That process could take up to two years.

“Justice has spoken but this is only the beginning,” Semenya said.

“My case at the European Court of Human Rights was against the ruling handed down by the government of Switzerland, and not World Athletics itself, but this decision will still be significant for all sportspersons in throwing doubt on the future of all similar rules.

“My hope is that Word Athletics, and indeed all sporting bodies, reflect on the statements made by the European Court of Human Rights and ensure that they respect the dignity and human rights of the athletes they deal with.”

World Athletics said it stood by its rules, which would remain in place.

“We remain of the view that the DSD regulations are a necessary, reasonable and proportionate means of protecting fair competition in the female category as the Court of Arbitration for Sport and Swiss Federal Tribunal both found, after a detailed and expert assessment of the evidence,” the organisation said in a statement.

(Reporting by Nick Said, editing by Ed Osmond)

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