11 September 2009

Govt shielding Semenya

The South African government will conduct its own gender verification tests on middle distance runner Caster Semenya before the IAAF releases the results of tests done last month.

The South African government will conduct its own gender verification tests on middle distance runner Caster Semenya before the IAAF releases the results of tests done last month.

Minister of Sport and Recreation Makhenkesi Stofile said on Friday that the ministry would request South African scientists to conduct their own tests on the world 800m champion after Australian media reported Semenya was facing a possible ban from competing against women.

According to reports in the Australian press on Friday, the IAAF has received the results of gender tests conducted on the eve of the World Athletics Championships in Berlin last month, which show the 18-year-old has no womb or ovaries, but rather testes and three times the level of testosterone in an average woman.

The IAAF maintains the results will be available to Athletics South Africa only in November and has not confirmed any truth behind the Australian media reports.

But Stofile said the sports ministry would not wait for those results before taking its own action. He added that he had not received replies from letters sent to IAAF president Lamine Diack requesting a meeting, and that if Semenya was banned from competing they would take legal action and a "third world war" would break out.

’We owe her’
"We can't wait for November. I received the latest report from the IAAF last night and today I must send a letter to the IAAF to know if they have results from these tests," Stofile said.

"I want to know why they are not responding to our letters, and if there are test results, we want them. A lot of scientists' theories have been proven as hypothesis and some South African scientists are respected around the world, so we want them to do their own tests."

Semenya was expected to address a press conference on Saturday in Pretoria -- where she has been entered in the women's 4km race at the South African Cross Country Championships -- but that commitment has been cancelled, and Stofile confirmed they would continue to shield the teenager.

"I don't agree anybody should not be given the opportunity to speak for themselves, but I'm also cognisant of the fact that not all South Africans are able to speak on issues like this,' he said.

"We are saying that she needs assistance and somebody must sit down with her and explain her rights. We owe her that responsibility.

"Some people have questioned why she has been referred to as a child, and I don't know if it's a cultural thing, but I don't think she's a woman. She's a child and she must be given a chance to grow up."

’Nobody is questioning if she’s a girl’
Stofile said he failed to understand why it would be an issue if Semenya was partly genetically male and he believed that hermaphrodites should be allowed to compete against women.

"Australian newspapers reported that the results indicate she is a hermaphrodite, but that means nothing to me," he said.

"There are many hermaphrodites in this world. That's not even an issue; the issue is that for a girl her testosterone levels might be higher then normal.

"Nobody is questioning whether or not she is a girl. She might not have a womb, but some women have their wombs removed, so what does that mean really?

"Those are peripheral issues. There are many other ladies who have been expected to be hermaphrodites, but they have never been tested, so what's the deal with Caster?

"Maybe she was not created in the same way as other girls in hormonal composition and testosterone levels, but what does it matter? Why even go there if there is no yardstick to measure these things?" – (Sapa, September 2009)

Read more:
Semenya shock: Hermaphroditism in sport
Semenya's sex: why the doubt?




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