Be Smart About South Africa

Burundi Athlete Shatters Records and Perceptions

ZAGREB, CROATIA - SEPTEMBER 14: Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi ran the women's 2000m race with a time of 5: 21.56 and set a new world record during IAAF World Challenge Zagreb 2021 - 71st Boris Hanzekovic Memorial at University park on September 14, 2021 in Zagreb, Croatia. (Photo by Goran Stanzl/Pixsell/MB Media/Getty Images)

Francine Niyonsaba, who has an intersex condition, broke a world record on Tuesday. The 28-year-old set a new 2,000m record at a Continental Tour Gold meeting in Zagreb, Croatia, breaking the previous record by more than two seconds. Niyonsaba finished with a time of 5:21.26, surpassing Genzebe Dibaba’s 2017 record. Niyonsaba, a 2016 Rio Olympic Games silver medalist in the 800m, is one of the athletes banned by World Athletics from competing in women’s races from 400m to one mile in distance because of what they consider to be her body’s elevated levels of naturally occurring testosterone, her sensitivity to the hormone, and her unwillingness to submit to medical interventions to alter those characteristics. Niyonsaba has hyperandrogenism, a condition characterized by the natural production of more testosterone than women without the condition. In order to compete, those athletes must lower their testosterone levels with medication or surgery, which World Athletics says is intended to “ensure fair competition.” In 2019, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) upheld World Athletics’ DSD rules when they were challenged by South African runner Caster Semenya. She lost a subsequent appeal and in February took her case to the European Court of Human Rights. That case is still pending.


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