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Phathisani Moyo, Sapa-AFP19 Aug 2009 13:54
Athletics South Africa (ASA) on Wednesday denied media reports that Caster Semenya was in danger of not competing in the evening final of the women’s 800m at the World Athletics Championships in Berlin.
According to an Australian website, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) had “conducted physical tests and genital screening to try to determine the legitimacy of Semenya’s sex”. A meeting between officials would determine whether or not she would compete in the final, where she lines up as one of the favourites for the gold medal, the report added.
But a member of the ASA delegation said they did not know what tests had been done on the 18-year-old—although tests were done—and the results would not be made available to them for at least another few weeks.
“There are no rules to stop her from running,” said the unnamed source.
The athlete’s coach, Michael Seme, speaking on Wednesday from Semenya’s base at the University of Pretoria, where she is studying sports science, said: “That’s all nonsense [about her not running], and she will run because this matter will be closed for another few weeks or even months.”
He also dismissed the controversy over Semenya’s gender.
“I have been working with Caster since January and I can tell you now that I have been training a girl, not a boy,” he told the Mail & Guardian.
Seme questioned the motive behind the rushed tests on athletes not competing for the first time in the international arena. “While the IAAF is well within its rights to conduct tests on any medal winner, the timing is suspicious. After all, she competed in the Junior Championships in Poland early this year and won. I would have expected that thorough tests for drugs and even gender were done then,” he said.
Seme was convinced that these distractions would not deter his athlete. “I have just got off the phone with her and she sounded cheerful. I told her to do as they [IAAF] say and remain focused.”
Semenya’s gender has been questioned since the teenager burst on to the scene earlier this season when she broke Zola Budd’s South African junior mark in the two-lap event.
And after she improved to a world-leading 1:56,72 to win the African junior title in Mauritius three weeks ago, rumours continued to spread.
A muscular physique for a girl her age, facial hair and a deep-toned voice have all raised suspicions.
As far as ASA was aware, the youngster was still eligible to compete in the 9.35pm final where they hoped she would pick up the nation’s first World Championship medal in six years.
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