'I was humiliated, but Caster can change the future of athletes' - Dutee

"When we met during the Rio Olympics, Caster gave me so much belief" - Dutee twitter.com/Karkazis

While Caster Semenya is heading to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, back in Hyderabad, Dutee Chand is winding down her evening training session and talking with effusive hope of a friend she has met only once, and of a familiar battle that she once fought.

Dutee's former counsels - James Bunting, Carlos Sayao, both from the Toronto-based law firm Davies Ward Phillips and Vineberg - who were at the forefront of her landmark win three years ago, will be part of Caster's legal team challenging the IAAF's regulation on permitted testosterone levels in female athletes.

In April this year, after the track and field's world governing body tweaked the rule to allow a reprieve for Dutee's events (100m, 200m) and focus on middle distance events instead, the Indian athlete was prompt to extend support to Caster.

"When I heard of the new ruling, I wrote to Caster saying that it may not affect my events anymore but since her race categories fall under its purview she could take my legal team's assistance if she plans to appeal against it," Dutee told ESPN. "She responded to my email thanking me for the offer and expressed interest in seeking the help of my lawyers."

Payoshni Mitra, the athlete's rights advocate and government-appointed advisor in Dutee's case, then took the matter forward. Speaking to ESPN on Monday, Payoshni recounted Dutee's protracted battle against IAAF's hyperandrogenism regulations, and the promise that their watershed victory breathed into athletes caught in a similar conflict.

"Dutee's struggle was long and difficult, but she had a favourable outcome at the end and is competing freely today," Payoshni said. "Before Dutee, very few young athletes in countries like India knew about the Court of Arbitration for Sports or the fact that even an athlete could challenge a policy. It is also true that the appeal process is complex and expensive.

"Through Dutee's case we managed to put up a successful precedent and when the IAAF came up with a new rule, Dutee and I felt we must offer Caster that if she wants we can connect her to Dutee's lawyers in Canada. When Caster expressed her willingness, I had put her South African legal team in touch with Dutee's legal team in Toronto."

In a reworked version of its suspended regulation on hyperandrogenism, scheduled to come into effect from November this year, the IAAF requires athletes with naturally elevated levels of testosterone - such as South Africa's Caster competing in the 800m category - to undergo medical treatment and compete at the national level, or switch to another race category not covered by this rule. Or worse still, compete with men or in the intersex category.

Dutee believes a regulation like this can kill an athlete's will to compete.

"I still look back at 2014 with horror," she said. "Bahut anyyay hua tha mera saath, bahut kuch jhelna pada tha (what happened to me was unfair, I went through hell). Caster has been at the centre of this debate for a long time and I'm happy that she has decided to fight this.

"In my case, a lot of questions were thrown at me and I was humiliated and insulted but I think Caster will have the advantage of being such a massively successful athlete of stature. Her country has always supported her and I'm sure she will continue training alongside with the case proceedings."

Payoshni concurs with that assessment. "Caster is a very eloquent woman, an earnest student of sports science and a fantastic human being. The culture of surveillance promoted by the IAAF policies are unfair, discriminatory, unjustified and targets more and more global south athletes.

"Women are expected to conform to the western cultural ideas of femininity. This is certainly a racist and sexist policy. The recent IAAF regulation forces athletes with no health issues to undergo invasive medical intervention for competing in sports. This is violation of human rights in an institutionalised way. This must stop."

No one ever imagined that Dutee would go on to win against the IAAF and return to the track again. In that sense, Dutee's victory has changed the way the gender issue is looked at and has also made it evidently clear that the IAAF did not have the required scientific evidence to back its hyperandrogenism policy implemented in 2011, which ruled that female athletes with testosterone levels that cross into the male range cannot compete in the female category.

Dutee is certain that Caster will not only take her fight against straight-jacketed gender norms forward, but also return with a victory.

"When we met during the Rio Olympics Caster gave me so much belief. She asked me to not give up training and told me that only as long as you have an active career will the world look look up to you. She will win this case and her victory will change the future of athletes across the world."