Caster Semenya celebrates after winning the 800m final at the Commonwealth Games earlier this month. Photo: Mark Schiefelbein/AP
Caster Semenya celebrates after winning the 800m final at the Commonwealth Games earlier this month. Photo: Mark Schiefelbein/AP

IAAF using flawed science to target Caster Semenya

By Ockert De Villiers Time of article published Apr 28, 2018

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Paying tribute to the late Winnie Madikizela-Mandela by raising the back power salute at her Commonwealth Games 800 metres gold medal ceremony, Caster Semenya’s gesture of defiance has greater significance in light of recent developments.

Semenya would have been aware of the impending storm that would erupt two weeks later with the IAAF publishing their discriminatory gender policy.

The IAAF have introduced a new policy attempting to regulate women that naturally produce testosterone levels above five nanomoles per litre.

For now, the regulations are limited to athletes that compete in events ranging from the 400m to the mile. This directly affects Semenya as it coincidentally targets events she has excelled in over the last few years.

Prominent experts from around the world have rubbished the flawed science the IAAF have used to draft the new regulations.

The IAAF relied largely on the statistics gained from a study of blood data from male and female athletes at the 2011 and 2013 World Championships.

Interestingly, the study showed no correlation between the elevated testosterone levels above five nanomoles per litre performing better than women with low levels.

It is a bizarre addition to the regulations and opens speculation that the new policy is specifically aimed at Semenya or African athletes that excel in those events.

Caster Semenya is the reigning world and Olympic champion over 800m and won the 800m-1 500m double at this month’s Commonwealth Games. Photo: Paul Childs/Reuters

The African National Congress labelled the new regulations as “grossly unfair, unjust and blatant racist” saying it is an attempt by the IAAF to discriminate and exclude athletes.

The injustice continues nine years since Semenya was dissected and placed under the magnifying glass of the prying eyes of the world.

Madikizela-Mandela was one of the few people that offered Semenya the dignity she so deserved when her confidential medical records were leaked.

The whole sorry saga will remain one of the great injustices in international sport where Semenya becomes the topic of conversation about a condition that is none of anybody’s damn business.

Semenya embarrassed the IAAF when she refused to lie down and accept the fate the athletics governing body had planned for her to go quietly.

In 2011 the IAAF developed a new set of rules for eligibility into women’s competition based on testosterone levels following their poor handling of the saga.

Those regulations were suspended when the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled that the IAAF did not provide conclusive proof that women with elevated levels of testosterone had an advantage.

Embodying the freedom fighting spirit of Madikizela-Mandela, Semenya has defied the IAAF with every single gold-medal winning run on the international stage.

Semenya has answered her critics on the track and while she has been greeted with intolerance, she has answered back with kindness. But they should not expect her to merely take it on the chin. No, the IAAF should expect a great deal of resistance from both Caster and her army of supporters.

In a media release, Sports Minister Tokozile Xasa intimated that the IAAF could soon return to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to defend the policy.

“Our government will go to every length and breadth to fight and challenge this decision,” Xasa said in the statement.

“Together with all the role-players and stakeholders affected and impacted by this decision, we will study the basis of the report as we seek a possible review of the judgment and accordingly prepare our legal defences, to overturn this decision.”

If the IAAF thought they had finally closed the book on the whole mess, they have another thing coming and we can expect a battle and a half over the coming months.


Saturday Star

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