Caster Semenya competes in the women’s 800m final at the Commonwealth Games in Australia earlier this month, where she won the gold medal. Photo: Mark Schiefelbein/AP

JOHANNESBURG – Sports and Recreation Minister Tokozile Xasa believes that Caster Semenya is being targeted by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) for her continued success on the track.

Semenya made history at the recent Commonwealth Games held on Australia’s Gold Coast by winning gold medals in the 800m and 1 500m races, and setting a new 1 500m record of 4:00.71.

Last week, in a surprise decision, the IAAF announced that women athletes who compete in 400m, 800m, 1 500m and mile events, would in future have to take medication that would decrease their natural testosterone levels.

Xasa complained that this was a “targeted approach”.

“We see this as a targeted approach by the IAAF,” she said. “This new initiative comes after she (Semenya) broke records at the Commonwealth Games.

“It is also Africans that are participating in long-distance races, therefore we view it as a target,” the minister said.

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“To compound the argument, she’s also a woman, hence this becomes sexist. This should have come a long time ago, not only when she wins medals as a way to discourage her.

“We take this as very sexist, racial and homophobic.

“We are angry and we want the entire country to rally behind us. Since Africans are doing well in these races, there are now a lot of questions that are surrounding them, thus we are very disappointed.”

Sports Minister Tokozile Xasa said medical commissions will come together to table a proposal or argument before the IAAF to assist Caster Semenya.
 Photo: Nhlanhla Phillips/African News Agency/ANA

Now in the prime of her career, as a result of her physique, Semenya has also had her sexuality questioned by the IAAF. She has undergone tests for gender traits to check whether she is female or male.

Xasa said the government would support Semenya in challenging the world athletics’ association over its new recommendations.

“We have Athletics South Africa that represents our athletics and the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc). These associations are going to take up the matter because we are looking at them to solve this situation,” the minister said.

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Xasa was speaking during a function at which SuperSport United footballer Aubrey Modiba gave a multipurpose sports court to his former school, Makgefola Primary, in Polokwane on Thursday.

“There are medical commissions that will come together to table a proposal or argument before the IAAF,” Xasa said.

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Xasa, the former tourism minister, said she believed that the country’s excellence in athletics was under the international spotlight, hence the government's determination to continue to protect South Africa’s image.

“We are a force to be reckoned with in the whole world,” she said. “We’ll rally and fight for our space because we have created one in the world.”

 

Sunday Independent