Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi, who has an intersex condition, breaks the world record.
At a Continental Tour Gold meeting in Zagreb, Croatia, the 28-year-old broke the previous 2,000m record by more than two seconds. Niyonsaba finished in 5:21.26, breaking Genzebe Dibaba’s previous record from 2017.
Niyonsaba, a silver medalist in the 800m at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, is one of the athletes banned by World Athletics from competing in women’s races ranging from 400 meters to one mile because of her body’s elevated levels of naturally occurring testosterone, sensitivity to the hormone, and refusal to submit to medical interventions to change those characteristics.
Niyonsaba suffers from hyperandrogenism, a condition in which the body produces more testosterone naturally than normal.
These athletes must lower their testosterone levels with medication or surgery in order to compete, according to World Athletics, in order to “ensure fair competition.”
When South African runner Caster Semenya challenged World Athletics’ DSD rules in 2019, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) upheld them. After losing a subsequent appeal, she took her case to the European Court of Human Rights in February. That case is still in the works.
In 2019, Niyonsaba stated that requiring certain women to undergo medical interventions in order to compete was a form of “discrimination.”
“It doesn’t make sense. For sure, I didn’t choose to be born like this. I love running, and I will not stop running.”
Niyonsaba has had a strong start to 2021, winning the Wanda Diamond League 5,000m and finishing fifth in the 10,000m at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
In Zagreb, she continued her excellent form by dominating the 2,000m event — a distance not run at the Olympics or World Championships.
Niyonsaba set a new world record in the distance by finishing four seconds ahead of second-placed Freweyni Hailu with a final lap of 63 seconds.
“I am feeling seriously wonderful. I didn’t realize I could run a world record, but it was my first time here. I came here to do what I have to do,” she said afterwards
“I did it. It’s wonderful and it’s fabulous. The pacing was just right. I want to thank all the people who came to cheer us.”