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Page last updated at 13:11 GMT, Friday, 11 September 2009 14:11 UK

SA threatens 'war' over Semenya

Caster Semenya

Semenya gender test row intensifies

South African officials have stepped up their defence of Caster Semenya, warning of a "third world war" if the row over her sex stops her competing.

The 18-year-old 800m world champion has had medical tests following doubts about whether she is actually female.

South Africa's sports minister, the Reverend Makhenkesi Stofile, said: "Caster is a woman, she remains our heroine. We must protect her."

BBC Sport understands tests are likely to show Semenya has an intersex status.

That means that although she has been brought up as a girl and lives as a woman, she may prove to have both male and female sex characteristics.

South Africans give their views on the latest twist in Semenya's story

Athletics world governing body the IAAF is still analysing the results of Semenya's tests and wants to discuss them with the athlete.

It has indicated that she is unlikely to be asked to return the gold medal she won in Berlin, but questions remain over her future in women's sport.

Asked what would happen if she was barred from competition, Stofile said: "I think it would be the third world war.

"We (would) go to the highest levels in contesting such a decision. I think it would be totally unfair and totally unjust.

"Neither Caster nor her family deserves this humiliation. None of them have done anything wrong. And we appeal that they be left alone.

"We have referred the matter to our lawyers to see how best her rights and interests can be protected."

Stofile was speaking after media reports in Australia claimed a source had revealed that Semenya's test results showed her to be a hermaphrodite - someone who has some or all of the primary sex characteristics of both men and women.

GORDON FARQUHAR'S BLOG

But South Africa's athletics president Leonard Chuene told the Star newspaper: "The IAAF told us this week that the tests are inconclusive and they could not give us the results just yet.

"So I really do not know where the Australia media got this latest one from."

National Assembly's sports committee chairman Butana Komphela added: "Someone is guilty of leaking her confidential medical information to Australian newspapers."

However, IAAF spokesman Nick Davies said: "The statements should be treated with caution as they are not official statements by the IAAF.

"We have received the results from Germany, but they now need to be examined by a group of experts and we will not be in a position to speak to the athlete about them for at least a few weeks.

"After that, depending on the results, we will meet privately with the athlete to discuss further action."

The IAAF has confirmed it will not comment further on Semenya until after the IAAF council meeting in Monaco on 20-21 November.

BBC sports news correspondent Gordon Farquhar said: "It's likely that she has some hermaphroditic or intersex condition.

"We already know that she has testosterone levels that are three times higher than those normally expected in a female.

"It's a serious issue and the athlete has to be told the implications.

"There are three possible outcomes from the expert's discussions: that the condition does not give her a competitive advantage; the condition gives her a competitive advantage, which cannot be treated; or most likely, the condition can be treated in some way if she consents to it, and in time she can return to competition."

"The IAAF has to weigh the interest of the athlete, an apparently innocent victim in this, with its responsibility to ensure fair competition."

Semenya won the 800m title in Berlin in August in the fastest time of the year, one minute, 55.45 seconds, 2.5 seconds ahead of Kenya's 2007 champion Janeth Jepkosgei.

Jenny Meadows (far left) trails winner Caster Semenya (second from left)

Caster Semenya wins 800m gold in Berlin



see also
Semenya 'must not be humiliated'
11 Sep 09 |  Athletics
Q&A: How do you define sex?
11 Sep 09 |  Health
The complexities of sexual identity
21 Aug 09 |  Health
Semenya to keep World gold medal
10 Sep 09 |  Athletics
Makeover for SA gender-row runner
08 Sep 09 |  Africa
New twist in Semenya gender saga
25 Aug 09 |  Athletics
Crowds greet gender-test athlete
25 Aug 09 |  Africa
Birth certificate backs SA gender
21 Aug 09 |  Africa
Semenya dismissive of gender row
21 Aug 09 |  Athletics
SA fury over athlete gender test
20 Aug 09 |  Africa
South Africa fury at Semenya perception
20 Aug 09 |  Athletics
Meadows surges to bronze in 800m
20 Aug 09 |  Athletics
Semenya told to take gender test
19 Aug 09 |  Athletics


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