/ 11 September 2009

Sport and Recreation Min Makhenkesi Stofile threatens ‘war’ if IAAF excludes Semenya

''We have a girl who has performed and won. I don't think we should play with people's lives and privacy, says Makhenkesi Stofile. Gallo
"We have a girl who has performed and won. I don't think we should play with people's lives and privacy, says Makhenkesi Stofile. (Gallo)

War will be declared if the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) excludes South African gold medallist Caster Semenya because she is a hermaphrodite, Sport and Recreation Minister Makhenkesi Stofile said on Friday.

It would be unjust to exclude Semenya from competing as a woman, Stofile said at a media briefing after it was widely reported that a leaked IAAF gender test result showed that Semenya was a hermaphrodite.

”I think it would be the third world war. We will go to the highest levels in contesting such a decision. I think it would be totally unfair and totally unjust.”

Stofile said the department was consulting with its lawyers regarding the human rights violations against Semenya.

”The ministry feels let down by the way this matter is being handled by those with devious vested interest, especially after being promised a meeting with the IAAF leadership.

”No one doubts her gender anymore. Now the issue of the percentages of her gender; this is unethical and disgusting.”

Stofile reiterated that Semenya was a girl even if reports were accurate that she was a hermaphrodite.

”They indicate that she is a hermaphrodite. For me that means nothing. The issue here is not whether she is a hermaphrodite or not. Where is the science that says they [hermaphrodites] have an advantage?” Stofile asked.

”I don’t think she’s a woman. She’s just a child. I think she just a child who’ s enjoying growing up.”

President Jacob Zuma, meanwhile, also came to the defence of Semenya on Friday, saying the media had deeply invaded her privacy.

”We have a girl who has performed and won. I don’t think we should play with people’s lives and privacy,” he said.

”Why should we not respect the privilege between doctor and patient?”

”I think we are faced with an unfortunate situation in this country where we claim to respect privacy and the rights of people, but then we do something that moves against those principles and values.”

IAAF won’t release results
The IAAF declined to confirm a Sydney Morning Herald report that Semenya has male and female sex organs.

IAAF spokesperson Nick Davies says the group has received the results of Semenya’s gender 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.”

Semenya’s father, Jacob, was angry when contacted by the Associated Press on Friday morning, saying people who say his daughter is not a woman ”are sick. They are crazy. Are they God?”

He said he had not been told anything about this from the IAAF, Athletics South Africa or his daughter.

”I know nothing.”

The Sydney newspaper reported in its Friday edition that medical reports on the 18-year-old Semenya indicate she has no ovaries, but rather has internal male testes, which are producing large amounts of testosterone.

Davies said the report should be treated with caution.

After dominating her race at the world championships in Berlin last month, Semenya underwent blood and chromosome tests, as well as a gynecological examination.

The IAAF has said Semenya probably would keep her medal because the case was not related to a doping matter.

”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.”

The South African Press Association, which picked up the Semenya reports from Australian and British newspapers, said Athletics South Africa president Leonard Chuene had not been informed of any reports by the IAAF.

”These are insulting words that the media are using, but we are in the dark,” Sapa quoted Chuene as telling the Star newspaper. ”We just don’t know what effect this information will have on her deep down. This process is not correct.” – Sapa, Sapa-AP


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