PRETORIA - Government threw its weight behind Olympic 800 metres champion Caster Semenya ahead of next week's landmark hearing against proposed rules that aim to restrict testosterone levels in female runners.
World track and field's governing body IAAF has proposed rules that would force so-called "hyperandrogenic" athletes or those with "differences of sexual development" (DSD) to lower their testosterone levels below a prescribed amount.
But Semenya, 800m Olympic champion in London and Rio and a three-time world champion, is challenging the legality of the rules in a case which will be heard at the Court of Arbitration (CAS) from Monday.
South Africa's Sports Minister Tokozile Xasa described the rules as "discriminatory" as she launched a campaign in support of hyperandrogenic athletes.
"These regulations appear to be specifically targeting Caster Semenya," she told a news conference.
"What's at stake here is far more than the right to participate in a sport. Women's bodies, their wellbeing, their ability to earn a livelihood, their very identity, their privacy and sense of safety and belonging in the world, are being questioned.
"This is a gross violation of internationally accepted standards of human rights law.
"The world once declared apartheid as a crime against human rights. We once more call people of the world to stand with us as we fight what we believe is a gross violation of human rights," the minister said.
She called on individuals and organisations "intolerant of discrimination" to add their voices to a movement "that condemns these discriminatory IAAF regulations which in their nature seek to unfairly exclude other sections of society from competing in sport," she said.
The IAAF regulations, she said, could potentially deprive the world from seeing and experiencing the "natural superiority of future athletes" from Africa.