Semenya humiliated, says SA athletics chief
The gender controversy surrounding South Africa’s teenage 800m world champion Caster Semenya has been humiliating for her, the country’s athletics chief said on Thursday.
Semenya’s rapid improvement over the past year, in which she has shaved more than eight seconds off her personal best in the two-lap race, prompted the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) to order a gender test.
“I will continue to defend the girl, I will continue to do anything, even if I am to be kicked out of Berlin, Germany, but I am not going to let that girl be humiliated in the manner that she was humiliated because she has not committed a crime whatsoever. Her crime was to be born the way she is born,” said Athletics South Africa president Leonard Chuene.
“And now people are not happy, and on that basis she is isolated like a leper, like she has got a disease that will affect other people, and I don’t think it’s proper,” he told Reuters Television.
Powerfully built but smooth running, the 18-year-old Semenya clocked one minute, 55,45 seconds for the year’s fastest time and a personal best by more than a second to win gold in the 800m on Wednesday, hours after the IAAF said the procedure for gender testing had started.
“I think what they should have done is to protect her until the results are out and then we sit and look at it,” Chuene said.
“Because even if the results are out, if we sit and look at it, at home they would like to have a second opinion, these are her parents, this is not going to be a simple thing.
“We are going to be dealing with a case where the parents are going to come in, where the government is going to come in strongly, and that is going to be the case and that is what I am saying as the head of the federation,” he said.
IAAF officials said they had tried to keep the issue out of the public domain until documents were leaked from a Berlin medical facility, where some of the gender testing has been conducted.
Other tests had been carried out in a special South African medical centre.
IAAF general secretary Pierre Weiss, who replaced Semenya at the medallists’ news conference, had said she would lose the medal if it turned out she was “not a female”, but on Thursday the IAAF said this was not a straight-forward option.
“If the evidence is overwhelming then we could do that,” said spokesperson Nick Davies, adding that it was not necessarily the path the IAAF would choose.
“We just have to wait until the reports are concluded. We will involve only the best experts,” he told reporters.
Semenya’s medal ceremony was scheduled for later on Thursday.—Reuters