12 February 2010

IOC meets on Semenya case

The IOC's general assembly was briefed about dealing with gender verification tests - an issue that gained global attention last year with the case of Caster Semenya.


The International Olympic Committee's general assembly was briefed about dealing with gender verification tests - an issue that gained global attention last year with the case of Caster Semenya.

IOC medical commission chairman Arne Ljungqvist reported on the findings of a two-day medical conference held last month in Miami.

"It was a meeting of experts, top experts, scientists in the field of gender determination," Ljungqvist said on the eve of the opening of the Vancouver Olympics.

Semenya, who was ordered to undergo gender tests, won the women's 800-meter race at the 2009 world championships in Berlin. "These are very, very rare cases. They are very, very delicate matters to deal with and there is no worldwide available expertise in all fields necessary to take care of such cases," Ljungqvist said.

"Therefore it was recommended that strategically located centres of excellence should be established to which athletes with DSD (disorders of sexual development) could be referred and, if necessary, further investigated and treated."

Medical responsibility to follow cases up

Ljungqvist said the conference also found that sports federations have a responsibility to follow up on cases they find, that more should be done to find such athletes before they reach a competitive age, and that a management plan be drawn up once a case is found.

"You take on a medical responsibility and you have to follow it up because that is a potential harmful disorder, could even be life-threatening in worst case," Ljungqvist said. "So you cannot just leave it. You have to do something."

The case of Semenya was not dealt with directly in the closed meetings. She was 18 when she won the 800 gold in August. Her dramatic improvement in times and muscular build led the International Association of Athletics Federations to order gender tests.

The IAAF is still reviewing the test results to determine Semenya's eligibility to compete. The IAAF has refused to confirm or deny Australian media reports that the tests indicate Semenya has both male and female sex organs.

The IOC used to carry out mandatory gender exams at the Olympics, but they were dropped in 1999 because the screening process - chromosome testing - was deemed unscientific and unethical. The IOC instead uses a special medical panel on site at the Olympics that can intervene, if necessary.

Ljungqvist noted that the group of about 15 doctors in Miami made "mainly scientific conclusions." "The establishment of any further rules related to this requires of course further discussions with the input of legal authorities" and human rights workers, Ljungqvist said. - (Sapa, February 2010)




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