Page last updated at 17:21 GMT, Thursday, 20 August 2009 18:21 UK

SA fury over athlete gender test

Leonard Chuene: "I will continue to defend the girl"

New 800m world champion Caster Semenya has been "humiliated" after being asked to take a gender test, says the head of South Africa's athletics body.

Leonard Chuene also said she had been treated like a "leper".

South Africa's ruling African National Congress earlier urged the country to rally round "our golden girl".

Her family has also insisted she is female. "I know she's a woman — I raised her myself," the 18-year-old's grandmother said.

Her mother Dorcus Semenya told the Star newspaper that doubts about her daughter's gender were motivated by "jealousy".

"If you go at my home village and ask any of my neighbours, they would tell you that Mokgadi [Caster Semenya] is a girl," she said.

"They know because they helped raise her. People can say whatever they like but the truth will remain, which is that my child is a girl. I am not concerned about such things."

'Masculine build'

Mr Chuene, head of Athletics South Africa, said he would continue to defend Semenya.

"I will continue to do anything, even if I am to be kicked out of Berlin, Germany, but I am not going to let that girl be humiliated in the manner that she was humiliated because she has not committed a crime whatsoever," he said.

Caster Semenya with her medal
If the teasing hurt her, she kept the hurt to herself and didn't show what she was feeling
Maphuthi Sekgala
Caster Semenya's grandmother

"Her crime was to be born the way she is born."

In a statement, the African National Congress (ANC) condemned the speculation surrounding Ms Semenya, who won gold at the Athletics World Championships in Berlin on Wednesday, leaving her rivals trailing.

"Such comments can only serve to portray women as being weak," the ANC said.

"Caster is not the only woman athlete with a masculine build and the International Association of Athletics Federation should know better," the statement said.

In an interview with South Africa's Times newspaper, her 80-year-old grandmother Maphuthi Sekgala said Ms Semenya had been teased when younger for her boyish looks.

She was also the only girl in the football team in Fairlie, a village in South Africa's northern Limpopo Province.

"If the teasing hurt her, she kept the hurt to herself and didn't show what she was feeling," she said.

The IAAF stresses that it does not suspect her of deliberately cheating but questions whether she may have a rare medical condition which gives her an unfair advantage.

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