Thursday, September 24, 2009

SA athletics chief to stay in job

Athletics South Africa chief Leonard Chuene will keep his job despite calls for him to be fired for lying about Caster Semenya undergoing gender tests.

Chuene first denied knowing that tests were carried out on the runner in South Africa before her 800m world title win but later admitted he had known.

He then expressed outrage when governing body the IAAF ordered its own tests after the Berlin championships.

But the Athletics South Africa council has backed the under-fire Chuene.

After meeting for several hours on Thursday, they released a brief statement saying it "unanimously expressed confidence in the current ASA leadership."

Chuene refused to comment after the meeting but South Africa's opposition Democratic Alliance party said the statement was "exceptionally disappointing."

"The need for Chuene to go is a no-brainer - so it is of deep concern that ASA appears to have given him a vote of confidence," they said.

The mere fact that SA athletics thought they could get away with this shows how far removed they are from the real world

"Chuene lied to the nation. He embarrassed South Africa internationally. And he breached Caster Semenya's right to dignity. What more does someone need to do to face disciplinary sanctions?"

However, the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee is conducting its own investigation into the Semenya case.

Chuene admitted on Saturday that he had lied to the South African public about his knowledge of the tests, conducted on Semenya in Pretoria on 7 August, but said the deception had been intended to protect Semenya's confidentiality.

He said that he had lied about the matter to protect the teenager's privacy.

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) began a gender verification process ahead of the race in Berlin and, pending the outcome, allowed Semenya to participate in the 800m final.

Semenya first burst on to the world stage in July when she ran one minute, 56.72 seconds for the 800m in Bambous, smashing her previous personal best by more than seven seconds.

Though South African officials insisted no gender tests were carried out within the country, it has emerged that the IAAF asked for Semenya to be withdrawn from the South African team for the World Championships following initial tests conducted locally, before the event.

However, Athletics South Africa insisted she should run and has since said it is certain she is female, a claim backed up by her family.

Semenya won the world title in another personal best of 1:55.45, two seconds clear of defending champion Janeth Jepkosgei.

The IAAF ordered more tests following that victory, with the results due in November but BBC Sport understands they are likely to show Semenya has an intersex status, exhibiting both male and female sex characteristics.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

India's 'Semenya' sends support

Considering suicide after being stripped of her medal and shunned by the people around her, Indian runner Santhi Soundarajan knows a bit about what Caster Semenya is going through.
Soundarajan failed a gender test after finishing second in the women's 800-metre race at the 2006 Asian Games and was forced to return her silver medal.Semenya, the 800 world champion from South Africa who has been going through the same type of test to prove she is eligible to compete as a woman, is facing an uncertain future.
"I pray that Semenya does not go through what I've been through, it almost drove me to committing suicide,'' Soundarajan, now 28, said from her southern Indian hometown.
"I've suffered immensely due to the stigma of the failed gender test.''
Soundarajan, who came from a poor family, was forced to drop out of competitive athletics after she failed the gender test, and finding a job and earning enough money to eat then became a daily struggle.
Semenya also comes from poverty, but she managed to win the 800 at the worlds in 1 minute, 55.45 seconds, 2.45 seconds ahead of her closest competitor. It was the best 800 time in the world this year.
Before the race even started, however, the IAAF said it had ordered gender tests to be done on Semenya because questions had been raised about her muscular physique and recent stunning improvement in times.
The IAAF has refused to confirm or deny Australian media reports saying the tests show that Semenya has both male and female sex organs.It has said the test results are being studied and a decision on whether she will be allowed to continue in women's events is expected in November.
Soundarajan, however, wasn't surprised the issue has come up again so soon after her own ordeal.
"With so much of workload athletes go through, there will be hormonal changes. It's bound to happen,'' said Soundarajan, who has been coaching poor children for the last two years. ``The authorities should bear this in mind when they take decisions.
"I cannot forget what I had to go through after my Asian Games medal was taken back. I hail from a poor family, and no one would give me a job. My entire family suffered as people began looking at me with a jaundiced eye, treating me like a cheat.''
Soundarajan is hoping Semenya doesn't have to go through a similar experience.
"I do not know about Semenya's family conditions and support, but I hope she does not lose heart,'' Soundarajan said.It was through coaching children that Soundarajan was able to change her life for the better.
"It was a tough decision. I was still reeling under the impact of a trauma, but had no available options or choices to make ... so coaching it was,'' Soundarajan said."Coaching has given me immense satisfaction, especially as these young boys and girls are now competing for medals in the state competitions.
"During school vacations, I get to train more than 60 boys and girls. The facilities are not very good, but I was delighted when my wards secured the first and third positions in the three-mile run during last year's Chennai Marathon. This year, they'll win the top three places.''
Getting her own medal back, something the Athletics Federation of India has said that it might consider asking for from the Olympic Council of Asia, would be a dream come true.
"I'll run miles to accept it back. It will change my life,'' Soundarajan said. "I do hope that people will treat me better when I am relieved of that stigma.''

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Semenya 'let down' in gender row

Retired American track and field star Carl Lewis says South African athletics authorities have "let down" Caster Semenya, 18, amid the row over her sex.
The newly crowned 800m world champion has had medical tests following doubts about whether she is actually female.
Athletics' world governing body (IAAF), demanded the test three weeks before the World Championships and Lewis says Semenya should have been withdrawn.
"The South African federation should have dealt with it," said Lewis.
The IAAF said the teenager was first asked to undergo a gender test after she posted a world leading time of one minute, 56.72 seconds at the African junior championships in July.
To put it out in front of the world like that, I am very disappointed in them because I feel that it is unfair to her
Carl Lewis
The test was never conducted and Semenya was allowed to compete at the World Championships in Berlin.
However, the South African athletics federation denied there were concerns over Semenya stating: "We would not have entered her in the female competition if we had any doubts."
The IAAF was then roundly criticised for announcing Semenya would have to take a gender test just hours before the 800m final.
Semenya went on to win in Berlin in one minute, 55.45 seconds, the year's fastest time, a personal best and a national record.
"Here is an 18-year-old young woman, because that's what she feels she is, let down every step along the way... I think the federation let her down," added Lewis.
"It is your fault," he said of the South African athletics federation.
"She is your athlete in your country and you didn't deal with this before.
"To put it out in front of the world like that, I am very disappointed in them because I feel that it is unfair to her.
"Now, for the rest of her life she'll be marked as 'the one'."
Medical experts are still examining the results of the tests, with the conclusions expected in November and BBC Sport understands tests are likely to show Semenya has an intersex status.
South African President Jacob Zuma decried the invasion of Semenya's privacy and what he called the violation of her rights.
Subsequently the country's minister for woman and children Noluthando Mayende-Sibiya has filed a complaint with the United Nations over the IAAF's handling of the case.
She has accused the organisation of a "blatant disregard" for the athlete's "human dignity" and called on the UN Division for the Advancement of Women to investigate.
Meanwhile, South African sports minister Reverend Makhenkesi Stofile has reacted furiously to the idea Semenya could be banned, warning of a "third world war" if the row over her sex stops her competing.
"Neither Caster nor her family deserves this humiliation. None of them have done anything wrong. And we appeal that they be left alone," said Stofile.