IAAF would do well to leave Semenya alone
The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) said on Wednesday, hours before Semenya was due to run, that the procedure for a gender test had started following her rapid performance improvement in the past year.
Let’s get one thing clear at the outset: this case has nothing to do with cheating or any attempt to gain unfair advantage.
If an athlete, as has been the case several times in the past, disguises himself or herself as a member of the opposite sex to gain an unfair advantage, then they should be exposed, banned and accept any consequences of their attempts to cheat.
But this case is nothing of the sort and the IAAF would be better to leave well alone.
What would happen anyway if a gender verification test — click here for an excellent overview of the way testing is done — were to prove, after weeks of examinations, that an athlete was not really female, medically speaking?
What would the IAAF do? Take her medal away and risk the legal wrangles, the years of public disputes that would follow?
The IAAF itself has said that Semenya has done nothing wrong, that “we are not talking about cheating”. So why bother with the test?
And again, what would they do? Send her off to run with the men? Obviously her times are not quick enough to be compared to men. She won with a time of 1:55.45 minutes. The men’s world record is a massive 13 seconds faster in the two-lap event. Even the women’s world record is a huge two seconds-plus faster and it has been standing for 26 years, set by Czechoslovakia’s Jarmila Kratochvilova.
According to her mother, grandmother, headmaster and friends Semenya was raised as a girl, lives like a woman and competes like one.
So why not do these tests quietly, as IAAF general secretary Pierre Weiss so correctly said when he took her place in the winner’s press conference to protect her from the media, and shut this and any similar cases quietly and discreetly, accepting that in life as in sport not everything is as simple as black or white, right or wrong, or even male or female.
PHOTO: Caster Semenya celebrates victory in the women’s 800 metres final during the world athletics championships at the Olympic stadium in Berlin, August 19, 2009. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach