/ 11 September 2009

Caster is a woman, ‘but maybe not 100%’

Athlete Caster Semenya has both male and female organs, Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald reported on Thursday.

Extensive physical examinations of Semenya (18) had shown the athlete ”is technically a hermaphrodite”. According to medical reports she has no ovaries, but rather internal male testes producing ”large amounts of testosterone”.

”This is a medical issue and not a doping issue where she was deliberately cheating,” International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) spokesperson Nick Davies was quoted as saying.

”These tests do not suggest any suspicion of deliberate misconduct but seek to assess the possibility of a potential medical condition which would give Semenya an unfair advantage over her competitors. There is no automatic disqualification of results in a case like this.”

Athletics South Africa (ASA) president Leonard Chuene was quoted in the Star as saying: ”These are insulting words that the media are using, but we are in the dark.”

ASA had not been informed of the results, he said.

”We just don’t know what effect this information will have on her deep down. This process is not correct.”

The runner’s former coach, Wilfred Daniels, said he was appalled by the reports and added that she should have been briefed and the matter dealt with in private.

When the Star asked her mother Dorcas about the reports, she tearfully asked: ”What do you want me to do?”

The IAAF received Semenya’s tests on Thursday.

Semenya’s case was due to come before the IAAF’s executive council in November.

IAAF secretary general Pierre Weiss earlier told Agence France-Presse: ”It is clear that she is a woman but maybe not 100%. We have to see if she has an advantage from her possibly being between two sexes compared to the others.”

Semenya underwent a series of tests to verify her gender at the world championships in Berlin, Germany, last month, where she won gold in the women’s 800m race.

IAAF won’t release results
The IAAF declined to confirm the Sydney Morning Herald.

IAAF spokesperson Nick Davies said they had received the results of the tests, but he would not discuss the findings.

”I simply haven’t seen the results,” Davies wrote in an email to the Associated Press. ”We have received the results from Germany, but they now need to be examined by a group of experts and we will not be in a position to speak to the athlete about them for at least a few weeks.

”After that, depending on the results, we will meet privately with the athlete to discuss further action.”

”Our legal advice is that, if she proves to have an advantage because of the male hormones, then it will be extremely difficult to strip the medal off her, since she has not cheated,” Davies wrote to the AP. ”She was naturally made that way, and she was
entered in Berlin by her team and accepted by the IAAF. But let’s wait and see once we have the final decision.”

Support from Winnie
African National Congress member of Parliament Winnie Madikizela-Mandela urged South Africans to come out in support of Semenya.

”I am listening to the news. I’m just extremely hurt by what I am hearing. The poor innocent child is a victim of all this, and it is not of her making,” Madikizela-Mandela told the Star in a report on Friday.

”I think it is the responsibility of South Africa to rally behind this child and tell the rest of the world that she remains the hero she is, and no one will take that away from her.

”I do not understand how any sane person can blame this child for a biological problem which is not of her making.”

”Mothers throughout the county, every mother and grandmother, should stand up and support the mother of this child and this child. She needs our moral support. We should tell her how proud we are of her. It doesn’t matter what she looks like.”

Madikizela-Mandela also criticised the local You/Huisgenoot magazine for making a ”caricature” out of Semenya by dressing her up in its latest edition.

”It was the most cruel prank any human being could inflict on another,” said Madikizela-Mandela. – Sapa, Sapa-AP