Francine Niyonsaba, a Burundian runner with an intersex disorder, set a new world record on Tuesday.
At a Continental Tour Gold meeting in Zagreb, Croatia, the 28-year-old broke the previous 2,000m mark by more than two seconds. Niyonsaba completed 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 disease in which the body produces more testosterone naturally than normal.
These athletes must decrease their testosterone levels using medication or surgery in order to participate, according to World Athletics, in order to “ensure fair competition.”
When South African runner Caster Semenya challenged World Athletics’ DSD regulations in 2019, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) upheld them. After losing a further appeal, she brought her case to the European Court of Human Rights in February. That lawsuit is still in the works.
In 2019, Niyonsaba stated that asking certain women to undergo medical treatments in order to compete was a kind of “discrimination.”
“It’s incomprehensible. Certainly, I did not choose to be born in this condition. I enjoy jogging and will continue to do so.”
Niyonsaba has had a strong start to 2021, winning the Wanda Diamond League 5,000m and placing sixth in the 10,000m at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
In Zagreb, she continued her good form by dominating the 2,000m event — a distance not contested 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’m in a fantastic mood right now. It was my first trip here, and I had no idea I could break a world record. I came here to do what I needed to finish “she explained afterwards.
“I completed the task. It’s fantastic and great. The pace was just right. I’d want to express my gratitude to everyone who came out to support us.”