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06 July 2010

Caster Semenya cleared to run

Caster Semenya is expected to be cleared to run against women again for the first time since Berlin in August 2009.

Caster Semenya is expected to be cleared to run against women again for the first time since Berlin in August 2009. The International Association of Athletics Federations and the local authorities are expected to announce within a few days the athlete is free to return to the track, ending one of the
biggest controversies ever to engulf the sport, reported the London Daily Telegraph Tuesday.

Semenya, 19, who has not raced since her runaway victory at the World Championships in Berlin last August, could be competing again as early as the World Junior Championships in Moncton, Canada, from  July 19-25.

Having missed so much of the season, the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in October is also likely to be a key target. 

The big question is whether the teenager will be able to match the extraordinary level of performance that first brought her to global attention when she won the African Championships in Mauritius in a world-leading time of 1 min 56.72 sec just a few weeks before clinching the world title in a super-quick 1 min 55.45 sec. 

Waiting in limbo

However, while her coach, Michael Seme, has admitted she has not been training at 100% due to the uncertainty over her future, it is also believed she has been undergoing medical treatment for an inter-sex condition. This, says Health24's FitnessDoc Dr Ross Tucker, is really the most important point.

"That alleged treatment, which I also believe to have taken place, holds the key to why this has taken so long. The IAAF find themselves in a difficult situation of having to avoid discrimination against any athlete - not only Semenya, as the SA sports fraternity wanted to believe. So their obligation was to ensure equality of competition without discrimination. 

"And there are a range of issues about this, from social to cultural, even religious, all of which have been had in various forms over the last 10 months."

Tucker added that from a sporting point of view the requirement is to manage the case to ensure that all athletes receive fair competition. 

"Treatment, to lower the testosterone levels and attempt to reduce any advantage as a result of high testosterone, would have had to take place, and that may be the reason this has taken so long to resolve," he said.

His assertion is backed up the Telegraph report which said "There were unconfirmed media reports last year that her gender test had revealed both male and female characteristics. The treatment for such a condition would involve surgery or, more likely, hormones, and would explain why it has taken so long to resolve her case. Either way, the treatment could have a major impact on her physical capability in the future."

It had been widely assumed Semenya had been waiting in limbo for 11 months for the results of gender verification tests carried out on her following her victory in Berlin.  

However, it is understood the teenager and her legal team have been closely involved in the process throughout and appointed their own experts to an independent panel of scientists and doctors which  has been monitoring her progress. 

The fact Semenya will now be free to compete in women's races suggests the treatment is complete to the satisfaction of the medical experts, though it is likely she will have to be monitored on an ongoing basis while she competes at elite level to ensure that she has no advantage over her rivals.

Legal tug of war

 
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