Leonard Chuene: “I was acting in the best interests of Caster Semenya”
Athletics South Africa’s president Leonard Chuene has apologised for denying knowledge of gender tests conducted on runner Caster Semenya.
The tests were carried out in South Africa in August but Chuene said he wanted to protect Semenya’s privacy.
Semenya has been the focus of attention since she won the 800m world title last month and the sport’s governing body, the IAAF, ordered fresh gender tests.
“I felt I was acting in the best interests of Semenya,” said Chuene.
“I believed at the time my consistent denials would help protect her. “I have however realised that it was an error of judgment and that I could have been more forthcoming with this information, even if it was difficult.”
Semenya first burst on to the world stage in July when she ran one minute, 56.72 seconds for the 800m in Bambous, smashing her previous personal best by more than seven seconds.
The IAAF demanded Semenya take a gender test before the World Championships in Berlin amid fears she might not be able to run as a woman.
But South African officials repeatedly said tests were carried out abroad, not at home.
Following the findings of initial tests, the IAAF asked South Africa to withdraw her from their team for Germany.
However, the ASA insisted she should run and has since said it is certain she is female, a claim backed up by her family.
Semenya knocked eight seconds off her personal best over the summer
Semenya went on to win the world title in another personal best time of 1.55.45 seconds, two seconds clear of defending champion Janeth Jepkosgei.
The IAAF then ordered more tests, saying questions had been raised about her muscular physique, running style and recent stunning improvement in times.
BBC Sport understands the test results are likely to show Semenya has an intersex status.
That means that although she has been brought up as a girl and lives as a woman, she may prove to have both male and female sex characteristics.
The ASA and IAAF have been pointing fingers at each other, while South Africa’s sports minister Reverend Makhenkesi Stofile threatened a “third world war” should the IAAF ban Semenya from competing.
However, the ASA recently vowed to launch an inquiry into their handling of the affair prompting Chuene to make the latest revelations.
Chuene said tests were carried out at a Pretoria hospital on 7 August at the behest of the IAAF, adding that it was unclear whether Semenya was informed of the nature of the examinations.
Jonah Fisher, BBC News, Johannesburg
The sport of athletics, both in South Africa and internationally, has let Caster Semenya down. Thanks to the leaks and lies of the IAAF and Athletics South Africa respectively, what should have been a profoundly personal matter turned into global front page news. The result: an 18-year-old from a remote village is in hiding and suffering from severe emotional stress. Having been criticised for only securing one medal at the Beijing Olympics, the South African team was feted for their three at the World Championships. But Semenya’s victory looks to have come at a heavy price both for the athlete and the reputation of South African athletics.
“I can no longer stand before you and say that I am not aware of gender tests conducted on Caster Semenya,” Chuene said.
He also said that despite medical advice and the request from the IAAF, he refused to withdraw Semenya from the World Championships because the test results were not available.
“I was not going to stop her talent because of rumours,” he said.
“On what basis should I have withdrawn her? My only crime committed was to take a decision that she must run, and she won.”
Media reports in Australia earlier this month claimed a source had revealed that Semenya’s test results showed her to be a hermaphrodite – someone who has some or all of the primary sex characteristics of both men and women.
But Chuene said he could not confirm any reports about her gender and accused the IAAF of violating her rights and privacy.
“The IAAF publicly revealed her name. The IAAF betrayed her. The IAAF has a lot to answer for,” he added.