Thursday, August 20, 2009

International Officials Launch Gender Inquiry on Caster Semenya

Freaky story from the Los Angeles Times, "Questions Raised About Gender of Winner of Women's 800-Meter Race":

A South African teenager's stunning victory in the women's 800-meter race at the World Championships on Wednesday was only a precursor to the shocking circumstances unveiled afterward.

At least two of the seven runners who lost to Caster Semenya said they are convinced she is not a woman, and track and field's international governing body has launched an investigation into the 18-year-old's gender.

Semenya, a muscular 5 feet 7 inches and 140 pounds, was an unknown before she ran a blistering time at the Africa Junior Championships three weeks ago. She did not speak to media after the race. An interview sheet distributed by the International Assn. of Athletics Federations said "no comment available," and Pierre Weiss, the IAAF's general secretary, appeared in her place at a news conference because officials determined Semenya was unprepared to face a barrage of questions.

Weiss said it could take several weeks to get the results of the investigation, which he said included testing of Semenya in both South Africa and Berlin. Without that evidence, the IAAF could not keep Semenya from running here.

"We entered Caster as a woman and we want to keep it that way," South African team manager Phiwe Mlangeni-Tsholetsane told the Associated Press. "Our conscience is clear in terms of Semenya."

The issue of gender testing is so controversial that the International Olympic Committee suspended widespread gender testing in 1999, reserving the right to do psychological, gynecological and chromosome investigations "if there is a valid suspicion," IOC medical director Patrick Schamasch said in an e-mail.

IAAF spokesman Nick Davies said the international federation began to ask questions about Semenya on July 31, when she ran what then was the fastest time in the world this season, 1 minute 56.72 seconds, at the Africa Junior Championships in Mauritius.

She ran even faster Wednesday, winning in 1:55.45, a time bettered by only a dozen women in history. With 150 meters to go, she turned the race into a rout, leaving defending champion Janeth Jepkosgei of Kenya (1:57.90) and Jennifer Meadows of Britain (1:57.93) far back in second and third.

"I've never seen her [Semenya] before today," Meadows said. "She took the race by storm."
Also, KTLA, "Man or Woman? Officials to Test Gender of 800-Meter Runner."

Plus, "
South Africa's Track President Defends Gold Medalist Semenya."

Video Hat Tip:
Right Fielders.