Semenya dismissive of gender row
Replay – Semenya wins 800m amid gender test row (UK users only)
New world 800m champion Caster Semenya has shrugged off the gender controversy shrouding her victory at the World Championships in Berlin.
Semenya has been dogged by suspicion about her gender since emerging on the athletics scene three weeks ago.
As a result, she has been asked by the International Association of Athletics Federations to undergo a gender test.
When asked to comment by reporters, the 18-year-old replied: “I don’t give a damn about it.”
The IAAF first requested the teenager undergo a gender test after she posted a world leading time of 1 minute 56.72 seconds at the African junior championships in Bambous, Maruitius at the end of July.
IAAF explains Semenya ‘gender test’ decision
Due to the speed of her rise from unknown competitor to eventual world champion, a gender test, which takes several weeks to complete, could not be done in time for the world championships.
The official IAAF policy document on gender verification states that one of the steps required for handling such cases is that “the athlete is referred to the investigating authority in confidence for further investigation and advice”.
The IAAF announced her undertaking of the test prior to her participation in the women’s 800m final in Berlin, a decision that has resulted in criticism of the sport’s governing body.
Former Olympic heptathlon gold medallist Denise Lewis described the treatment of Semenya as “absolutely dreadful”.
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“It’s awful she had to compete with this hanging over her head,” said Lewis. “It should have been sorted out much, much sooner than this.”
Four-time Olympic gold medallist Michael Johnson believes that in the current climate the IAAF had to act on the issue but was critical of the manner in which this was done.
“We have to take it at face value that she’s entered in the right race and the gender is what the South Africans claim it is,” said the American.
“The consensus is that it is highly unfair and embarrassing to the athlete but at the same time we’ve had so many athletes who have doped over the last decade in this sport, so we know people will cheat for success.
“I think what the IAAF is doing is the right thing in terms of dealing with the situation, but the way they’re dealing with it is all wrong.”
Former world 1500m champion Steve Cram was similarly damning of the decision and suggested the IAAF may have been attempting to force Semenya’s withdrawal.
“I think the timing is incredibly unfair on her,” said Cram.
Johnson critical of IAAF over Semenya
“Without putting words in the mouth of the IAAF I think there was an assumption that maybe the South African federation would understand the questions that were going to be asked and might have persuaded her not to compete but that was never going to happen.”
South Africa’s ruling party, the ANC, has called on South Africans to rally around “our golden girl”.
“Such comments can only serve to portray women as being weak,” read an ANC statement. “Caster is not the only woman athlete with a masculine build and the International Association of Athletics Federation should know better.”
Gideon Sam, president of South Africa’s Olympic governing body, criticised the manner in which Semenya had been treated.
“We condemn the way she was linked with such media speculation and allegation, especially on a day she ran in the final of her first major world event,” he said.
“We have every faith in Athletics South Africa and the team they selected to attend the World Championships in Berlin.”
Semenya will once again be subjected to the glare of the media spotlight on Thursday at about 1730 BST when she is due to be presented with her gold medal after winning the 800m final in a new world leading time of 1 minute 55.45 seconds.
Great Britain’s Jenny Meadows, who could have her bronze medal increased to silver if Semenya fails her test, says the issue is now purely in the hands of the IAAF.
“There’s nothing we can do as athletes and it’s a difficult situation for Caster herself to be in but we’ve got to leave to to the discretion of the IAAF,” she said.
Semenya’s mother, Dorcus, has leapt to the defence of her child, telling the Star newspaper: “I am not even worried about that (claims she is a male) because I know who and what my child is.
“Mokgadi (Caster Semenya) is a girl and no one can change that.
“If you go (to) my home village and ask any of my neighbours, they would tell you that Mokgadi is a girl.
“They know because they helped raise her. People can say whatever they like but the truth will remain, which is that my child is a girl.”