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Semenya left stranded by storm

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Tom Fordyce | 23:07 UK time, Wednesday, 19 August 2009

When Usain Bolt is no longer the main topic of conversation at the World Championships, you know something dramatic must have happened.

There had been whispers circulating about South African 800m prodigy Caster Semenya ever since she ran a spectacular 1 minute 56.72 seconds in a low-key meet on 26 July.

Not only was it the fastest time in the world this year by more than a second, it meant she had improved her personal best by seven seconds in less than nine months. And, she said afterwards, she could have run even quicker had it not been for a strong wind on the back straight.

For once, the tittle-tattle was not the usual sort about performance-enhancing substances. This was more basic and a whole lot nastier: was the 'she' actually a 'he'?

It wasn't just the rapid time. Semenya has a well-muscled physique. She also has a dusting of facial hair. Mix those three things together and ugly rumours spread like wildfire.

What no-one quite expected was the way the story would suddenly develop with the 800m final just hours away.

Earlier in the week, it had been the stuff of bar-room banter. The favourite quote was from Semenya's coach Michael Seme, who had told reporters: "I can give you the telephone numbers of her room-mates in Berlin. They have already seen her naked in the showers and she has nothing to hide."

Semenya left her rivals trailing

Seme also recounted how, when Semenya recently tried to use the women's toilets at a petrol station in Cape Town, the attendants tried to direct her to the gents instead.

"Caster just laughed and asked if they would like her to take off her pants to show them she was a woman," said Seme. "We understand that people will ask questions because she looks like a man. It's a natural reaction and it's only human to be curious."

So far, so amusing - but the atmosphere began to change when Semenya charged through her heat and semi-final in such dominant fashion that she was suddenly the red-hot favourite for gold.

What had been a story known only to athletics aficionados suddenly had legs. Questions started being asked of athletics' ruling body, the IAAF. The jokes started getting more unpleasant. The 'c' word - cheat - rose to the surface.

Cynics recalled the famous case of German high jumper Dora Ratjen, who competed at the Olympics here in Berlin in 1936 but was later revealed to be a chap named Hermann. The comparison was ridiculous - Ratjen was forced to conceal his gender by the Nazi government and had been born and raised a man - and the reaction from the South African team indignant.

'She is a female," insisted general manager Molatelo Malehopo. "We are completely sure about that. We would not have entered her into the female competition if we had any doubts."

Then, with just three hours to go until the final, news broke in Berlin that the IAAF had asked Semenya to take a gender test.

The story fizzed round the Olympiastadion. What did the test involve? When would the results be known? Would Semenya even be allowed to run?

Gradually the prevailing mood shifted. Why was this coming out now? In the case of a doping test, the media are not notified unless both 'A' and 'B' samples have tested positive. Until then there is silence. Yet here a cloud of official suspicion was being allowed to gather before anything had been proved.

Semenya celebrates victory


That any woman would be confronted with such serious accusation in front of a worldwide audience of millions struck many as callous. That it was an 18-year-old from Limpopo province at her first major senior championships seemed cruel in the extreme.

Semenya was on the warm-up track while inside the gossip flew round the adjacent main stadium. "The timing has caught us out," admitted an IAAF spokesman as the eight finalists were called together.

As Semenya emerged onto the track from the pre-race call-room, the photographers' long lenses swung in unison and locked on her face.

She looked implausibly calm under her neat corn-rows. On the blocks she waited for the television camera to come in close on her and then mimed brushing something from her shoulders. That there were two British girls in the final - Jenny Meadows and Marilyn Okoro, both with a chance of a medal - had almost been forgotten.

As if trying to escape the furore, the South African went off at breakneck speed. Reigning champ Janeth Jepkosgei took over for a few brief seconds on the back straight but was left struggling as the teenager took them through the bell in under 57 seconds, a blistering pace.

While the rest of the field went backwards, Semenya went again. Coming into the final straight she had a lead of five metres. At the line it was two and a half seconds, the biggest margin in World Championship history and another big personal best.

Yet while Jepkosgei and Meadows - a brilliant third - went off for laps of honour, Semenya was ushered away by officials, straight past the hordes of waiting journalists.

At the winner's news conference half an hour later, there was no sign of the teenager. "To protect her," explained a weary IAAF secretary general Pierre Weiss.

For the hundreds of reporters waiting, this was not enough. Where were the tests done? "At a special hospital here and in South Africa." When were they finished? "They are ongoing." Why was this not sorted earlier? Semenya had run the 800m at the Commonwealth Youth Games as long ago as last October, albeit in a vastly slower time. "She was unknown three weeks ago. Nobody could have anticipated this. We are fast, but we are not a lion."

What had Weiss heard so far? "Personally," he said, his moustache drooping even lower than normal, "I have no clue what is going on. I rely on and trust our doctors."

One thing was made clear: if the tests, whenever they do come out, subsequently show that Semenya cannot legally compete as a woman, she will be stripped of her medal and the placings revised.

The trouble is, those results could be weeks away. From all accounts they are also incredibly complicated and open to various interpretations. In the meantime, Semenya will be under media siege. The most private aspect of her life will be the subject of intense public scrutiny.

"Running is just a game to me," she had said after her semi-final win. Not any more.

On Thursday she is due to be awarded her medal. No-one could blame her if she asked for it to be posted to her instead.

Comments

Page 1 of 4

  • Comment number 1.

    oops! no win-win situation for the IAAF is going to develop here, whatever the result.

  • Comment number 2.

    The IAAF will be hoping and praying that their accusations turns to be true, if that however turns not to be the case, whats definate is that some of the IAAF officials will have to go as many issues will be raised from that accusations.

  • Comment number 3.

    It's appalling that the fact of this test has been made public, a blatant disregard for her dignity. Heads should roll, regardless of the outcome. Whatever journalist broke the story should be ashamed of themselves.

    She's dealing with the situation with remarkably good grace so far.

  • Comment number 4.

    Shame it's happening like that! If she is she, what an amazing athletic she is....

  • Comment number 5.

    With so many medical specialists involved, I'm wondering about a condition called congenital adrenal hyperplasia with virilisation, untreated. It would explain the need for an endocrinologist and psychologist.

  • Comment number 6.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 7.

    Her time of 1:55:45 in the final is still nowhere near Kratochvilova's record of 1:53:28. In fact, it is not even in the top ten. I think they should have just allowed her to continue running.

  • Comment number 8.

    As a fan of many sports I think this situation is disgraceful and I feel tremendously for this young athlete. When she should be enjoying the most incredible moment of her life she has been forced to hide from the public like some circus show freak. The timing of this announcement was deplorable and the people responsible for its announcement should be ashamed.

    I hope there is no case to prove and that this extremely talented athlete continues to set the athletics world alight. For me, her performance is as good as Bolts and I hope in time she will get the credit she deserves rather than sneers and comments under peoples breath and behind her back.

    If there is some truth in the accusation, then I still believe that Semenya is innocent in the sense that to her knowledge she has lived the life of a girl because that is what she believes herself to be.

    I myself have spent the last 10 years involved in professional sports and have come across many athletes that are androgynous, hopefully this will be the case with Semanya.

  • Comment number 9.

    I totally agree with the comments made by Denise Lewis and feel really sorry for the poor girl. What on earth were the IAAF thinking with the timing of this annoucement? And why?? This must be so embarassing as well as humiliating for her.

    Furthermore, what about all the masculine East European athletes in years gone by? Where were the IAAF then??

    Or is it they just like throwing their weight around with people who can't answer back?

  • Comment number 10.

    DouggieLee,

    Pompous maybe, but it would explain everything, including Tom's comment "From all accounts they are also incredibly complicated and open to various interpretations". Her cheek swab chromosomes would show 46XX, female, but she would have an excess on male hormones to give her the appearance people are concerned about. It is a very complex condition that would be an explanation
    as to why she has been having tests for weeks and why it will take weeks to clarify. I'm not being pompous, I'm just offering a different theory to the two main ones i.e. She's a woman and everyone is cruel, or she's man and she is cheating.

  • Comment number 11.

    I agree that it must be awful for poor Caster and no one would want to be in her shoes at this moment but given some of her coach's comments I can't believe this hasn't come up earlier in South Africa.

    Given her age and her improvements coming on so recently at the African Junior Champs I hardly think that the IAAF can be blamed for not getting on top of this as this type of case must happens so rarely (and the testing procedure is so lengthy and effectively voluntary). Lets face it, there is no real way to tread carefully around this situation as, from her perspective at the very least, she has done nothing morally wrong and so couldn't be banned from competing.

    I truely hope that it turns out not to be a problem and she can move on and use a negative test result to her advantage to stop any future hurtful comments and whispers but I listened to her in an interview a week ago and she both looked and sounded like a young guy and to be honest I was in shock that she was competing as a woman and had to double take that it was the female record she had just broken.

    Assuming that she is medically both male and female, she isn't cheating (sorry I had to use the c word) but is a rare medical anomalies, and I really feel for her because I know in her position this would be a living hell.

    All the best Caster and I hope everything is cleared up in a couple of weeks but I fear the tests will prove she shouldn't have been running.

  • Comment number 12.

    This reminds me of years ago of two Russian "sisters" Irena and Tamara Press who entered in field events and won every contest in site, until the athletic commissions decided that they would introduce gender testing. The "sisters" retired immediately. Photos of the time showed two people who looked like they were professional wrestlers (male)and would scare most guys if they met them in a back alley. Hopefully this young person will be found to be in the correct gender contests.

  • Comment number 13.

    To No7 newprinceofwales
    As I recall there were plenty of questions around Kratochvilova when she was in her prime.
    She took tests and passed them.
    In the 80s I believe she and most other female Olympic athletes have had to take gender tests. In fact the tests go back further than modern drug testing in athletics. I think they stopped testing all female athletes in Olympics only in the 90s... now it is case by case...

  • Comment number 14.

    No wonder why there will always be wars in this world. There will always be some people who think because of where you are from, you just ain't good enough to do what you are doing.

    I am Jamaican, big up Usain, Veronica, Kerron, Shelly-Ann, as much as I am happy that my/the Jamaican athletes are no longer the main topic of discussion about whether or not it is possible for them to do what they are obviously doing: I must say it pains my heart to know that the next victim is Caster Semenya, from my readings, she was cleared in South Africa as a female and to belong to the female sex.

    TO my surprise just by following this story there is a distinction between sex and gender. LOL.

    Again what we have here is a South African who is clearly outrunning all other women in the 800m and at times in the 1500m. Bet if this was an American, British or French doing what she is doing, there wouldn't be so many question signs, Guess she just ain't good enough to do what she is doing.

    Jah Bless

  • Comment number 15.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 16.

    How dare they invade her privacy like that? Is it not enough that she has ovaries, a vagina and a uterus? Must she be humiliated like this in public? I think the IFFA could have done tests privately and only came out with the results. But to have her go through this in inhuman

  • Comment number 17.

    Jarmila Kratochvílová, the 1983 world record holder (153.28!!!) shared a number of characteristics: She came out of nowhere, was no oil painting and had to deal with rumours that were never heard about the more "fragrant" East German athletes of her day - all of whom were subsequently found to be doped.

  • Comment number 18.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 19.

    "7. At 01:34am on 20 Aug 2009, newprinceOfWales wrote:

    Her time of 1:55:45 in the final is still nowhere near Kratochvilova's record of 1:53:28."

    Not a good comparison - there were many questions about her gender as well.

  • Comment number 20.

    She didn't just show up three weeks ago and start running and breaking, did she? So why wasn't she tested before.

    In the interview with the IAAF guy, it seems that they're only testing her because she's improved recently. But if she's a man now (or not a woman), then she's been a man for a lot longer than 9 months and should've been tested when she first started competing as a junior.

    Or is it a case that we don't care what you are until you start winning.

    Do they only drug test winners? So why only gender test Caster because she's winning?

    From what I've read you have to be 100% female to compete as a woman. Now, since they don't test everyone, then it comes down to look. There could well be feminine-looking women who have aren't 100% female because of chromosonal/hormonal issues.

    2/3

  • Comment number 21.

    Her coach said that she is a woman, enough said.

  • Comment number 22.

    I think the IAAF is going to be damned if it does and damned if it doesn't here. I had never even heard Castor Semenya's name until I watched the race on television yesterday evening. When the cameras focused on her my instinctive reaction was to look towards the next athlete because I honestly wasn't sure if I watching the women's final or the men's.

  • Comment number 23.

    I can't understand why noone's asking about doping. Being male doesn't mean you can suddently improve your time by 7 seconds, but taking a bunch of anabolic steroids 9 months ago does (as well as coarsening the facial features). Athletics is such a naive sport that they come up with this and miss the point entirely.

  • Comment number 24.

    Disgraceful timing of the announcement that Semenya will be tested! Why couldn't they have waited until after the tournament and do it privately? That said, my first reaction when I saw her in the semis was that she was a bloke, but she looks no more manly than Maria Mutola and Christine Ohuruogu and I don't recall their sex being questioned.

  • Comment number 25.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 26.

    She a teen... that's why no one has heard of her. Anyone thought that maybe hard work in the gym and on the track have given her this physique? In South Africa we have an innocent until proven guilty policy... lets leave it at that. Congrats on an amazing performance by the way!

  • Comment number 27.

    The comments made by ERTYCZ are pretty valid. There is and I believe always will be a certain amount of snobbery and prejudice in sports and in particular athletics. 15-20 years ago, when smaller nations (or less developed countries) did well in track and field the more established / successful nations (it seemed) accepted their limited success with a surprised smile, assuming these victories were exceptions and normal service would resume...but never did they imagine the day would come when a small (limited) nation could so easily dominate a sporting event (the sprints). Admittedly some African countries had enjoyed success over long distances, but nobody expected the revolution that has occurred in sprinting.

    If Semenya was from the USA, UK, Germany or many other "western nations" I doubt this would have happened in the manner in which it has transpired. I am a brit who has worked in professional sports in the Caribbean for 10 years, and has also lived in South Africa. Its about time many people in the sport and watching it just accept the fact that certain countries are able to produce naturally gifted athletes. Semenya is just an example of this (I hope). There still exists in the sport a certain degree of racial / national prejudices. I do not want to stray away from the topic completely but ERTYCZ says this poor young athlete has been treated in a way which would not have happened if she had been born elsewhere and I completely agree.

    I hope her name is cleared and that she has not been too emotionally scarred. If she is legitimate, she promises to be a phenomenal athlete, I hope and pray she is cleared and that she can carry the title of women's 800m champion with pride and without suspicion.

  • Comment number 28.

    Umm, the rumours are not going to be quashed if Ms. Semenya continues to pose like Amir Khan?

    More seriously, aren't most top athlete 'freaks of nature' (I apologise as that's hardly a flattering term) to some degree, a particular combination of genes that produces someone more suited to a particular event than the average male or female?

  • Comment number 29.

    #3. "Whatever journalist broke the story should be ashamed of themselves." Er, the IAAF announced it.

    There seems to be a lot of judging going on here. Surely no-one can comment on the situation because no-one knows the true story. Should the IAAF have said anything or not? Difficult, because if it turns that "he" is a "she" and it is proved the IAAF had their suspicions, they would be asked why they didn't do anything about it.

    Like someone else said, no-win situation for them.

  • Comment number 30.

    "Gradually the prevailing mood shifted. Why was this coming out now? In the case of a doping test, the media are not notified unless both 'A' and 'B' samples have tested positive. Until then there is silence. Yet here a cloud of official suspicion was being allowed to gather before anything had been proved."

    ************************************

    Tom, you mentioned yourself that suspicion had been gathering long before this announcement. It was a sensible move to make this statement, so that anyone with suspicions about her who watched the "race" - more of a procession, really - could know that valid concerns were being investigated, and that ultimately, justice would be done.

    You might as well complain about a "cloud of official suspicion" against anyone who wins a medal, seeing that they're all required to give a sample for testing.

    The margin of victory, the way she's come from nowhere, and the extremely masculine features all suggest that something funny's going on. I just hope the IAAF do their job properly, without worrying about whether they might upset the poor dear by carrying out appropriate checks.

  • Comment number 31.

    What can the IAAF do, you have someone who has improved by nearly 10 seconds within the space of a month, they have to look into it. Unfortunately there have been rumours over the past few days so sooner of later it was going to come out, it is surely better to come from the IAAF than elsewhere.

    Also did you notice that when Jenny Meadows was interviewed and asked the question about Caster she did not answer it directly and also said that there are a lot of personal opinions about her but she was following the British Athletics line.

  • Comment number 32.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 33.

    She may well have Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS), which are genetically male with XY chromosome but externally female organs. She would have been born that way and no fault of her own.

    They should not have made the gender tests public. How do we classify people with AIS in sport?

  • Comment number 34.

    All those criticising the actual decision to perform the tests are just being PC. The fact is, she looks like a man. We were there in the stadium on Monday night for the 800m first round and my partner turned to me and asked why a man was running. 'She' has a totally male physique and when you add this to the fact that her times have improved so drastically and that she is significantly faster than any other athlete in her field at the moment, the IAAF had no option but to investigate. Even if she is part male (i.e. a hermaphrodite or other genetic condition) then she should still be banned from running in female events. Any male genetics will give her an advantage over a female athlete. Some would argue discrimination, but all that matters is fairness on the track.

    By the way, some people have mentioned Kratochvilova in 1983. This is really not a good example as it was highly suspicious at the time and even more so now. Most of the East Europeans in those days (including Kratochvilova's team mate Marita Koch) were on all sorts of drugs and back then many were not detectable. '1983', 'East European' and 'world record still standing' tell you all you need to know about that one.

    Also - compulsory gender testing for all female athletes was, I believe, abandoned in 2000.

  • Comment number 35.

    Given that gender is defined (or at least was) under separate legal codes, how does the IAAF define gender these days? Surely the only "acid test" is chromosomal. If she has a pair of XXs, however butch she looks she is a lady and everyone should a) apologise and b) get over it.

    If she has a Y then she's a bloke; simple as. Why the need for a bunch of endocrinologists etc.?

  • Comment number 36.

    @collie21

    "Those of you who are outraged, what happens if the test comes back positive and she is a he? Will there still be all the indignation about what he or she is suffering."

    I don't think this is the issue - I presume most people here (prob. not all) agree that in this case it is essential to do gender-testing. That is not controversial, after all it was commonly done in the 80s, despite some complaints from athletes. I think the IAAF is 100% right in what they are doing there - and the athlete knows they are doing this. Given her looks, I presume Semenya will have taken the test with a rather resigned shrug as I expect that she views herself as female but she must have been aware that she postures and looks like a boy. But she wouldn't be the first as many posters have pointed out.

    What I personally object to, and probably a number of other posters, is the _timing_ of the public announcement. If they had told us a month ago, fine, even after the semi-final I could sort of accept it, but on the day of the final!, just a few hours before they were due to run? That is just very poor handling of the situation whether the tests are positive or negative - it only serves to whip up a media frenzy which is nowhere near required in this situation.

    With doping allegations I do not object much to a media frenzy, if you are a cheat then you deserve that the rest of the world knows you are. But with gender testing probably the athlete will not know in advance that they are ineligible for competing and I think it is appropriate to be more careful.

    Anyway, I think it is interesting to contrast her time of 1:55:45 with Pamela Jelimo's run last year in Beijing: 1:54:87, or Yelena Soboleva who also run sub 1:55 last year: 1:54:85. Mutola has also run faster, as has Ceplak. Yesterdays run really caught the eye because the rest of the field was so much weaker than Semenya, not because her time was totally outrageous.

  • Comment number 37.

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  • Comment number 38.

    She is dealing with it pretty well. This is a very trying moment for her. Two questions though: How could the IAAF not deal with this before the games, and do you think ASA would blatantly make a fraudulent entry for the Berlin games?

  • Comment number 39.

    What is the issue here.... is it that she has some seemingly male features or is that no woman should be running those times at that age?

    If testing is not as easy as a visual clarification by doctors then surely every single female athlete should be tested in this manner.

    If that is so, how can we be sure that any female athlete does not have hidden (even from themselvs) unnatural male hormones which helps them to perform better in sport.

    I myself believe that testing her to that degree is unfair and it must be very humiliating.

    Even if she has only female reproductive organs from what I've read she can still be classified as having male characteristics and thus be banned from all future female competition.

    That is insane. If that is so then how is she different from the following people

    People born and raised at altitude. They develop greater oxygen carrying capacities and therefore are at an advantage to those living at sea level.
    It is surprise that the majority of middle-long distance races will be won by Kenyan/Ethiopian atheletes specifically from the highland regions of their nations?

    What about Eero Mäntyranta. He was a finnish skiier in the 60s who won 3 cross country skiing gold medals. He was born with a genetic defect which raised his natural levels of EPO to unnatural and arguably unfair levels (taking additional EPO is banned in sport).

    In essence if we test girl beyond a basic physical examination we should test every single femal athlete in that manner but also test every single male athlete also for genetic abnormalities which aid their performance.

  • Comment number 40.

    What a joke! When Usain Bolt wins the mens 100 metres by a huge margin, he is an icon & a legend. When Caster Semenya wins the womens 800 metres by a huge margin, she is a man!

    Perhaps we should test Bolt aswell to check if he is actually a man and not in fact a god!

  • Comment number 41.

    BennyBlanco,

    are you talking about androgen insensitivity syndrome, also known as testicular feminization syndrome.

    This would actually cause her to appear very feminine with a very "sexy" female body. As only female hormones are able to take any effect. She would have testicles somewhere inside her pelvis.

  • Comment number 42.

    Andoyo,

    If she had androgen insensitivity syndrome she would have to have a partial form. CAH is more likely. I think it's very possible she has an intersexuality condition, given the number of medical specialists involved. And it is true, her medical results should be confidential. It would be a fascinating debate as to where people with these conditions fit in elite sporting competition. As I understand it from a friend who competed in the Olympics, gender in elite sport is determined by your karyotype from something like a cheek swab. So 46XX is female, and 46XY is male by the rules. This doesn't take into account all the hormonal and psychological aspects that determine our true sex, however. It's a very very complex medical issue.

  • Comment number 43.

    If she has been known on the circuit for some time, I'm not sure how she could have 'changed gender' during that period.

    So it is either someone else, (unlikely) or the answer is needed to the real question....how has she bulked up and improved so much so quickly?...this suggests the need to investigate possible massive steriod use.

    She didn't break the world record. Usain Bolt did. Does that mean Bolt needs to be investigated as a woman?

  • Comment number 44.

    What a disgrace! Not only is this whole scandal based on sour grapes, but it's racism - pure and simply! Just because a young black woman, who does not quite fit the stereotype of what a woman should look like, performs way better than any of her competitors, she has to suffer such a humiliation - unbelievable. I agree fully, I hope some heads will roll at the IAAF.

  • Comment number 45.

    40. At 09:24am on 20 Aug 2009, naddogg wrote:
    What a joke! When Usain Bolt wins the mens 100 metres by a huge margin, he is an icon & a legend. When Caster Semenya wins the womens 800 metres by a huge margin, she is a man!

    Perhaps we should test Bolt aswell to check if he is actually a man and not in fact a god!


    The difference here is that people in the know about Athletics have known about Bolt since he was about 14/15. Also he has now reached the World 200m final in the last 3 attempts (since the age of 18). Regarding Semenya you are talking about someone who has gone from running 2 mins 6/7 secs to 1 hour 55 in a small amount of time.

  • Comment number 46.

    It seems someone has to be 100% female to be competed in female competition. I have a feeling all those who are doing extremely well in female races are not 100% female. Physical look can be misleading.

  • Comment number 47.

    This is not only in bad taste it is a absolute disgrace. Is this South African kid the first female to look like a man? I can remember many East Germans and Russians who at first glance looked butch, the IAAF should be gratefull that a potential star has come on to the scene and with her times is taking the 800m to another level. Athletics has had to come through doping and cheating storms yet when they have something positive in Semenya they not only seem to be anxious to rubish her performances but also possibly destroy her life.

  • Comment number 48.

    "how has she bulked up and improved so much so quickly?"

    So you know what she looked like before do you?

    Terrible timing by IAAF. They will need to do some seriously grovelling if they are proved wrong. To do this to an 18 year old girl is pretty criminal.

  • Comment number 49.

    I'd laugh if Semenya is actually Bolt's brother! ROFL!

  • Comment number 50.

    #47 - you don't get it do you. Gender testing was compulsory up to around the year 2000. So although the East Europeans of old looked suspicious, they would have been confirmed as female. What they were doing was using steroids on an industrial level. Even the equally male looking Maria Mutola was around pre-2000 so would have been tested.

    And #44 - this is not racism. I wondered when someone would bleat out the usual race card when any black person is accused of anything. She looks like a man, runs like a man and the IAAF are absolutely right to investigate.

  • Comment number 51.

    nico_delange

    Spot on.

  • Comment number 52.

    I just don't get it. In what does she look different from her opponents? They look the same to me. Since when a test is needed to prove the gender of a person. Just look at her naked and if she has something different from male and that look like the female organ she is a female. The remaining is not the business of the IAAF. Hoo! I forgot... she is African and run faster that the others so she must be cheating.

    you make me sick

  • Comment number 53.

    you can actually bet on the outcome of the gender test. 1/2 woman, 7/4 man. crazy. also one bookmaker paid out on jepkogei as well as semenya as the winner

  • Comment number 54.

    "Perhaps we should test Bolt as well to check if he is actually a man and not in fact a god!"

    I thought all winners were tested? Any suspicious substances that promote god-like abilities are banned. Why else are they made to pee in a cup.

  • Comment number 55.

    I'm afraid that somewhere along the line, people have missed the point.

    OK, (s)he runs an incredible race (maybe accounted for by weak opposition). Let's face it, if you or I were trying to hide something as BIG as gender manipulation or even a doping scandal, would we run a race like that? If I was in that position, or her coach, with such accusations and rumours hanging over my head, I would have had a quiet race, or won by a very small margin. As she chose to run the race of her life, she either proves that she has absolutely NOTHING to hide, or is the most stupid athlete to walk this earth!!

  • Comment number 56.

    Obviously in any case where there is doubt testing should be carried out and scrutiny is a part of every top athletes life but the manner this has been carried out in has been a disgrace from start to finish. Drug cheats receive benifit of doubt with their chance of a B sample before there name is released, for this to be released about semenya 3 hours before a major final when Mr Weiss admitted they have no real proof is a disgrace, the whole episode stinks from start to finish. Clarity and fairness in every sport is crucial but surely a persons human rights and dignity are paramount and if the law innocent until proven guilty is good enough for most first world democracys then surelyt it should prevail in sport.

  • Comment number 57.

    #44 What? You've made YOUR mind up that its racism "pure and simply". I've not seen or heard anyone else play this card. Fact is wouldn't matter what colour he/she was, there is obviously a problem. And sour grapes? From whom?

    On the subject of the whole situation, the speed and the manner at which the IAAF has reacted makes me think there is more that they know about this athlete than they are letting on. Just a hunch, but it would make sense...

  • Comment number 58.

    Mclarenm23, Olymans,

    No I'm not odd, and no I don't mean AIS, but a partial form of that could explain it. There is a group of medical conditions called intersex disorders where a person may be XX or XY but their external appearance does not reflect that for reasons that are specific to each condition. My theory is she has one of these conditions, most likely congenital adrenal hyperplasia as it's the most common. This would mean she could have XX, but androgen steroid tests would be abnormal. By the rules if her chromosomes are XX, she is a female as correctly stated by DERedcoat. As I stated earlier, I am just offering a theory that isn't that the IAAF are cruel, or that she is cheating.

  • Comment number 59.

    First time I saw her, I thought it was pretty obvious that something was not right. It seemed to me that at some point in her life, Semenya was or had been a man.

    I expect that that is what the test will find.

    But given that Semenya is now a woman - where does that leave the IAAF?

  • Comment number 60.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 61.

    No need for a gender test, (s)he's clearly a bloke. Why not gender test some of the "big girls" currently playing in the Premiership?

  • Comment number 62.

    This, and several related articles in the same publication, is the most illuminating stuff I've seen online about this story:

    http://www.int.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=6&click_id=174&art_id=vn20090820065312355C607115

    Gives the background of her upbringing, childhood and schooling etc, quoting her Mum, teachers etc. Seems like this is not the first time Caster has had struggles with this issue...

  • Comment number 63.

    Dont remeber all this clamour when Fatima Whitbred was winning Stuff!!!

  • Comment number 64.

    What is really disturbing is that it sounds as if this whole matter will be settled as a matter of opinion amongst the various experts, so no matter the decision, people will question whether or not they have got it right. This will continue to haunt her for her entire career which is so unfair.

    Then there is the nightmare scenario that they rule that she is a male and disqualify her. Two years later she gets pregnant and has a baby which would make her a female by just about everyone's definition.

    Will the IAAF reinstate her and compensate her? What confidence could any athlete or the public have in the IAAf processes ever again.

  • Comment number 65.

    Clearly a bloke!

  • Comment number 66.

    This is a very difficult issue, and is not helped by typical knee jerk reactions of racism. It is not, repeat not, because she is black that she is under investigation. It is also not because she is South African.People who make these comments are themselves being racist, as they should be well aware. The reason she is under investiagation is for the simple and undeniable truth that she looks and sounds like a man. This is always going to be an issue if that person is involved in women's athletics, particularly where she has made massive progress in such a short space of time, which has put her in the spotlight.
    Clearly the matter needs to be resolved one way or the other.

    However, what is totally unacceptable is for the IAAF to announcee these tests in the way that they did. That was totally disgraceful, and grossly and crueelly disrepectful to the girl. Whatever happened to "innocent until proven guilty" as is the case with drug tests for instance?

    Whatever the outcome of the tests she will end up with her reputation totally trashed. At the very least the IAAF should have made sure there was some substance to the rumours before going public with any tests.This is a massive own goal for the IAAF regardles of the outcome of any tests. They are very keen to be seen to stick to procedure when it suits them, but this has been handled abysmally from whatever perspective you look at it.

    On a diffferent matter I think you will find that Kratochvilova was not a team mate of Marita Koch (see post 34 above) she was a Czech and Marita Koch was East German. Nevertheless, her world record has always been regarded as tainted, as has Flo Jo's 100 meters world record. Testing back then was nowhere near as thorough as it is now.

    Just because they got away with it is no reason to turn a blind eye to situations that arise today.The IAAF needed to take action in view of all the speculation; they just did not need to do it so publicly until such times as they had something concrete to say.If they has held off making any public comment until the results of the tests were known then nobody would have criticised them. As it is criticism of them is clouding the point that should be upfront and central. Is she a man or a woman, as there clearly is some doubt over the issue?

  • Comment number 67.

    i dont understant why are some people shocked about her record and are actualy suprised she could have such a record! i thought any athlete thrived to break a record , create a new one or even better be the best in the game. so what's the point in entering such competitions if your not going to bring anything to the table, its a running competition the fastest will win, if it were me id run as fast as i can. and i bliv that is what that girl did she ran and she shocked most of you and you had to bring her down by questioning her sex!

    i say if your partner questioned her looks she should be carefull cos maybe someone next to you also wondered if she really is who she thinks she is.

  • Comment number 68.

    This rather interesting and yet disturbing story (because of the young woman's treatment) raises an issue not often brought into the public eye, namely that there is much more to gender than just male/female. There is a whole spectrum in between but such people are so rare that the general populace doesn't even realise they exist.

  • Comment number 69.

    #50 yes you are correct they were gender tested and dope tested when the Eastern Europeans were at the top but am i not correct in saying it took maybe more than 20 years before they were caught? You see in those days it was much easier to fool the testers whether it be gender or doping. The IAAF have often said the athletes were always one step ahead. Surely the testing of gender in the Semenya case could have been handled behind closed doors as doping tests are without the intrusion that this girl will now face. Who could blame her whatever the outcome if she walks away from athletics and never runs again.

  • Comment number 70.

    There's quite of lot of nonsense on this post.
    Testing Bolt for being a god is one which did make me laugh; but true he also wins by large margins, but has been competing at the top level for 5/6 years and is frequently tested to check he's not doing anything naughty.
    Others have said how it's a witch hunt, asking how it's different from former East German athletes or Kratochvílová. Whose point are you trying to make? The East Germans were doped and Kratochvílová dropped out when tests became biological.
    Racism; really, are you sure? If she was from US/UK, she would have been tested beforehand (regardless of race) - is that racist?

    It seems likely Semenya has ostensibly female organs (seemingly sufficient for ASA) and thinks of herself as a woman. She's not trying to cheat.
    The IAAF is under an obligation to ensure there is a level playing field, in Semenya's case, this means a biological chromosome test (I know it's more complex than this), rather than merely a drug test.
    The IAAF's announcement timing seems poor, but worse would have been preventing her from running and denying her the opportunity to win gold, should she prove to be a woman.

  • Comment number 71.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 72.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ffW5zeuPcds

    This is her being interviewed. With that voice, something abnormal is going on.

  • Comment number 73.

    Regardless of the outcome of this I think that this has been handled in a completely unprofessional manner. We are talking about an 18 year old having to cope with the whole world scrutinizing them, something which not even the most famous and experienced athletes would be able to just take on the chin! Absolutely ridiculous!

  • Comment number 74.

    Cwithers,

    yes they would be performance enhancing to a woman, as would excess be to man. Testosterone promoted muscle growth. But my theory is that she has these excessive hormones due to a medical conditon. Google "congenital adrenal hyperplasia".

  • Comment number 75.

    It is a shame that the South African athletics Board did not anticipate this beforehand and had the tests all completed before the games to show to the authorites. I feel very much sympathy for this winner. It must be terrible for her to have to cope with this, to have your gender put into question in such a public way. Yes she does look a bit masculine, but so do a lot of the others including Christine Ohuruogu and that Canadian in the 100m hurdles for example. ( I haven't been watching a lot of coverage but I am sure there are lots more). She doesn't look a "feminine" female in the sense like that Bronze winner with the pinky girly-colour sunglasses, whose comment by the way I thought was tactless and seeming to suggest that she thought the winner is a male, but so what! A lot of woman are natuarally tom-boyish and if they then train for years and years and build up muscles then they may look like this (like a lot of the other female athletes too, past as well as present). I hope tests prove that she is a woman and that she can rightly be proud of her gold medal.

  • Comment number 76.

    dear Caster
    as a man who is extremely proud of what you have done last night, I feel the need to talk to you. You did a tremendous thing - against all odds you came out on top. You answered all these small brained people the best way you can- outrun all, and with this you gained tremendous respect- at least with this european.
    I want to ask you one big favour- in fact it is going to turn out in quite a few favours- do not stop running, no matter what happens. The talent you have is unfortunately giving you the responsibility to share it with us. And share you must. There is more friends out there than you think, and if you ever read this blog you shall realise just that.
    Run girl run! and keep on running.
    from your biggest fan
    a Dutchman

  • Comment number 77.

    55 - TheMole101:
    Running outrageously well does not prove you have nothing to hide. Ben Johnson, 1988 Olympic 100m final.

  • Comment number 78.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 79.

    Look, let's be honest about this, and stop trying to all be PC hippies....this person clearly looks VERY masculine, both in facial features and in body shape, especially with the muscle mass.

    Let us not try and fool ourselves here, all sports have their cheats and this kind of thing HAS indeed happened before, I feel it is perfectly acceptable for the IAAF to ask for these tests, I just feel it should have been done behind closed doors for the persons dignity.

  • Comment number 80.

    Whoever complained about #78 needs to get a life. That gave me the biggest laugh of the morning so far.

  • Comment number 81.

    I agree with the viewpoint that the IAAF are not giving us the full story. If she is a man living as a woman, she's always been a man living as a woman. How would this alone explain the recent improvement in her performance?
    As for her looking like a guy; many female sprinters have similar builds and many, many women have facial hair - only her colouring makes it more noticeable.

  • Comment number 82.

    BennyBlanco

    I don't think you are odd I just tried to offer another possibility. As stated the diagnosis of such conditions is complex and could potentially be inconclusive with respect to the definitive outcome the authorities would want.

  • Comment number 83.

    What @TrojanOtter said!
    So many of the posts here seem to be nonsense based on either prejudice or simply a lack of knowledge.

    Firstly, if Semenya fails the gender testing it does not mean she is or has been cheating. If she has been brought up as female and thinks of herself as female then she is most definitely not cheating - even if it turns out she isn't eligible to compete. I don't know why people find that difficult to understand.

    Secondly, gender testing isn't routine any more in athletics and nor is it obligatory. The IAAF isn't in an unenviable position and had no real choice in the matter, because this only started to be an issue a few weeks ago when Semenya's times improved so suddenly and dramatically. That kind of improvement in performance is highly unusual and therefore suspicions are justified.
    The testing as I understand it was carried out prior to the start of the competition and they are waiting for the results, which take quite some time. It would be unjust to ban her from competition without proper testing, so obviously she has been allowed to compete.

    Of more concern to me is the lack of critical thinking, surfeit of simplistic thinking and possibly unintentional prejudice shown in some of the responses here to Mr Fordyce's original blog post. How on earth one equates Semnya's case with that of the old East Germany is incomprehensible. Then to say that it was ok for Kratchvilova so it must be alright for Semenya shows an ignorance of history. As for accusations of racism, as levelled by some in South Africa, they fail to provide motivation and are just barmy.

    Whatever the outcome of this it's still very sad for all those directly concerned, and very damning for those who seek to cast blame or make capital out of it.

  • Comment number 84.



    Sorry, double negative. It should read: "The IAAF is in an unenviable position and had no real choice in the matter..."

  • Comment number 85.

    @ 44 -- I was wondering how long it would be before someone resorted to the 'R' word. Is there a version of Godwin's Law that covers this?
    Any athlete may be subject at any time to a gender test. It is the publicity given to this test that stinks, rather than the fact that she has been asked to take one.

  • Comment number 86.

    Semenya is a girl. She may have male features just like the whole bunch of her competitors who actually dont look like true girls either!

    Most of the posts are detailed and focused on how she looks like a man. Me thinks all the other girls competing against her, look ugly too & they also look like men. Obviously you can not expect girls without muscles running very fast! This is not a modlling stage or beauty peagent, where girls with feminine features compete.

    There is a touch of racism to all this. When she has been competing in the previous IAAA junior circuits why didn't they test her. The other man looking girls from UK, USA, Germany & other Western countries competing against her are not being tested. Why?

    She ran 5 seconds better than her last competition. Is this impossible to achieve? With hard work for a teenage who was working extra hard. How is this different from Bolt recording an impossible time from 9.69 to 9.58 within so short a period before the last WR was set in China.

    Some of you who are just posting here might have features of the sex you believe you are, so be considerate. Imagine they have to test you beyond 46XX and 46XY chromosomes, you could also turn to be a chick when you have been thinking you are a bloke throughout your life.

    And how will we know that the results will not be biased considering the manner this whole thing is being done? To save embarrasment the IAAA will try to ensure the results are positive, otherwise they will delay the results as much as they can so they dont look bad. If the IAAA was fair they way they behave towards athletes from UK, USA and other Western countries, they would have conducted the investigation in confidence because there is no proof Semenya is a man. Meanwhile the career of a promising athelete is on the line!

  • Comment number 87.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 88.

    There is a far more serious issue at stake here. If Semenya is thought to have a medical condition and is undergoing medical tests then she should be intitled to confidentiality. The IAAF have certainly breeched this and if I was her I would consider legal action.

    As regards chromosomes and genetics - surely Bolt is a genetic "freak" should they ban him as well. Where will it end?

  • Comment number 89.

    The majority of women athletes are muscly and masculine. You only had to look at the hurdles line up.
    You're either 51% male or 51% female, I would imagine.
    Lots of women have facial hair, and all the training brings out the masculine side. Just look at Martina Navratilova. Muscly and masculine, but with a high voice.
    People do pick on South Africans-remember Zola Budd.
    If this woman wasn't so good they wouldn't give a damn.
    They have handled it about as tactlessly as they could, but then sports officials are a pretty crass lot.

  • Comment number 90.

    Re 86 - Bolt ran 9.69 but slowed down in last 30 metres, it was obviously this time was in him. Also he has been around for about 8-9 years and has been known that he could do something special for that time. Also her time has improved by 11 seconds since she run in the junior Comps, the IAAF has every right to be suspicious, this has been ongoing for several week now, it is just that it has come out now which is wrong

  • Comment number 91.

    #86 I think you find that the UK athlete Jenny Meadows is actually one of the most feminine looking women in the 800m and quite attractive. It's also interesting that she was the one who, when interviewed last night after winning bronze, she implied that the other athletes are suspicious of Semenya, although she was careful not to say anything directly. There are simply no other women out there, except maybe the Chinese shot putter, who look anywhere near as masculine as Semenya.

  • Comment number 92.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 93.

    I still haven't heard an explanation of why an eight second improvement makes her a man rather than a­ girl who has rapidly improved. It isn't logical. When I was 17, I improved my half mile time (yes, a long time ago) by ten seconds on the previous year to 1min 52.8 with a couple of other times at 1.53. I was a­ boy then and as far as I know am still fully male. Is there another reason? Just appearance?

  • Comment number 94.

    Surely the real issue here is that the IAAF have forgotten the principle of innocent until proven gulity. By doing this this person is subjected to all sorts of unfounded speculation with no proof.

    The IAAF should be ashamed of itself.....

  • Comment number 95.

    Surprised to read this news.
    You have spent many hours for collection,editing and publishing to us.
    Often and often,some controversies on sports persons capacities,doping,cheating and now an issue on gender.
    Whatever it may,whether she or he will continue to get some medals to sports lovers,and to fans
    Once test results comes out,then,sports authorities will decide their gender
    Hereafter,All international events will be conducted by three categories.
    1.Male,2.Female and 3.Transgender.

  • Comment number 96.

    #36 comments:
    "Anyway, I think it is interesting to contrast her time of 1:55:45 with Pamela Jelimo's run last year in Beijing: 1:54:87, or Yelena Soboleva who also run sub 1:55 last year: 1:54:85. Mutola has also run faster, as has Ceplak. Yesterdays run really caught the eye because the rest of the field was so much weaker than Semenya, not because her time was totally outrageous".

    Spot on. All sorts and sizes have run faster in recent times.

    To my mind there are three details of importance:

    (i) The IAAF Director of Communications Nick Davies basically admitted on BBC TV last night that the IAAF had acted in response to whispers in advance of these championships by asking the athlete to undertake what sounds like a raft of invasive medical tests. With a precedent now set, can we expect similar requests of many other athletes - including those from UK, USA or wherever - who don't conform to certain stereotypes of what a woman should look like? Or certainly of every woman who improves their PB by X% in Y period of time? No, didn't think so. That's the #1 reason it stinks.

    (ii) The timing of the announcement from the IAAF was, to my mind, wholly designed to put enormous pressure on the athlete and SA Federation to withdraw from yesterdays final. That's #2 reason it stinks.

    (iii) As reported in the Times this morning, Rule 113 of the IAAF’s law book says that, “the medical delegate shall have the authority to arrange for the determination of the gender of an athlete should he judge that to be desirable”. Ah yes. Has anyone seen any female IAAF delegates, medical or otherwise, speaking on this matter? Nope? #3 reason it stinks is that it is a predominantly male IAAF bureaucracy that has crassly legitimised the world media questioning of this teenagers most intimate physiological details.

  • Comment number 97.

    #52 Pehaps you need to visit Bangkok and do a bit of "night tourism" before using such a simplistic argument. Or are you actually saying that because she comes from South Africa, they don't have plastic surgeons out there, so s/he can't possibly be cheating? Now who's being racist?

    #66 I agree with your argument, but with a small but neccessary correction. Drugs testing is not innocent until proven guilty!! Diane Modhal is just a foremost example of a number of sports people whose best chances to be number one can be shattered by 'false positive tests'. Nandrolone is perhaps the foremost example of where eventual rulings are made 'on the basis of probability'. In the interim, that Sportsperson's life is on hold and in some cases it's the effective end of what is at best a short lived and ephemeral career.

    I don't think the IAAF have gone about this the right way or at least they haven't been very tactful, but even so valid questions need to be answered.

  • Comment number 98.

    Many women athletes don't look very "feminine".

    The IAAF should investigate and test if there are any suspicions but the process should be done in private until the results are known. Announcing they are already in the process of tesing just before the final like that was poor judgement and very unfair.

    Anyway, why are the tests so complex and time consuming if the criterion used is the simple XX or XY one?

  • Comment number 99.

    It will all end in tears mark me words

  • Comment number 100.

    Maybe she does need to be tested, who knows?
    Im my opinion she looks like a woman who works out a lot and has a face with some masculine features. Not exactly a rarity in Athletics.
    Kelly Holmes was a woman who worked out a lot and had a face with some masculine features. Taking the drugs issue out of the equation Marion Jones (when clean as she was at one point wasn't she?) was exactly the same, very masculine. No one was accusing those two of being men.
    If Semenya needs to be subjected to these tests then every other Athlete does too??
    I would love if this tests came back that she is 100% woman. It would be the best thing and then maybe she could go on to be a clean Athlete and smash the 800 metres WR that was probably set by an unclean Athlete (since wild accusations are the order of the day).
    Maybe then she can get the plaudits she deserves, the same ones being handed to Bolt.

 

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