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Page last updated at 16:46 GMT, Saturday, 19 September 2009 17:46 UK

Semenya: Let down by athletics

By Jonah Fisher
BBC News, Johannesburg

Winnie Mandela and Caster Semenya address reporters during a Team SA press conference,  Johannesburg (25 Aug 2009)
Caster Semenya has gone into hiding following the furore over her gender

The sport of athletics, both in South Africa and internationally, has let Caster Semenya down.

Thanks to the leaks and lies of the International Association of Athletics Foundations (IAAF) and Athletics South Africa (ASA) respectively, what should have been a profoundly personal matter turned into global front page news.

The result, an 18-year-old from a remote village in South Africa is in hiding and suffering from severe emotional stress.

On the athlete's return from the World Championships in Berlin three weeks ago, the ASA berated the IAAF for leaking news of Semenya's gender test.

Leonard Chuene, ASA's president, said "our girl" would not be tested and called her treatment "racism, pure and simple".

In fact, leaked e-mails showed that Mr Chuene was lying. Tests had already been conducted in Pretoria on 7 August before Semenya left for Germany.

Confronted with the evidence, Leonard Chuene justified his comments saying they had come "out of principle" to protect the athlete's confidentiality.

Worse was to follow. It has now emerged that several days after the gender test a meeting was called in Germany. Harold Adams, the South African team doctor advised Mr Chuene to withdraw Semenya from the championships - but he refused.

At the press conference, the head of the ASA justified his decision by saying the doctor had told him "very clearly" but only "verbally".

Having been criticised for only securing one medal at the Beijing Olympics, the South African team was feted for their three acquisitions at the World Championships.

But Semenya's victory looks to have come at a heavy price, both for the athlete in question and the reputation of South African athletics as a whole.



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