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Page last updated at 11:42 GMT, Tuesday, 15 September 2009 12:42 UK

Semenya 'let down' in gender row

SA to blame in Semenya row - Lewis

Retired American track and field star Carl Lewis says South African athletics authorities have "let down" Caster Semenya, 18, amid the row over her sex.

The newly crowned 800m world champion has had medical tests following doubts about whether she is actually female.

Athletics' world governing body (IAAF), demanded the test three weeks before the World Championships and Lewis says Semenya should have been withdrawn.

"The South African federation should have dealt with it," said Lewis.

The IAAF said the teenager was first asked to undergo a gender test after she posted a world leading time of one minute, 56.72 seconds at the African junior championships in July.

To put it out in front of the world like that, I am very disappointed in them because I feel that it is unfair to her

Carl Lewis

The test was never conducted and Semenya was allowed to compete at the World Championships in Berlin.

However, the South African athletics federation denied there were concerns over Semenya stating: "We would not have entered her in the female competition if we had any doubts."

The IAAF was then roundly criticised for announcing Semenya would have to take a gender test just hours before the 800m final.

Semenya went on to win in Berlin in one minute, 55.45 seconds, the year's fastest time, a personal best and a national record.

"Here is an 18-year-old young woman, because that's what she feels she is, let down every step along the way... I think the federation let her down," added Lewis.

"It is your fault," he said of the South African athletics federation.

"She is your athlete in your country and you didn't deal with this before.

"To put it out in front of the world like that, I am very disappointed in them because I feel that it is unfair to her.

"Now, for the rest of her life she'll be marked as 'the one'."

Medical experts are still examining the results of the tests, with the conclusions expected in November and BBC Sport understands tests are likely to show Semenya has an intersex status.

South African President Jacob Zuma decried the invasion of Semenya's privacy and what he called the violation of her rights.

Subsequently the country's minister for woman and children Noluthando Mayende-Sibiya has filed a complaint with the United Nations over the IAAF's handling of the case.

She has accused the organisation of a "blatant disregard" for the athlete's "human dignity" and called on the UN Division for the Advancement of Women to investigate.

Meanwhile, South African sports minister Reverend Makhenkesi Stofile has reacted furiously to the idea Semenya could be banned, warning of a "third world war" if the row over her sex stops her competing.

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

see also
SA threatens 'war' over Semenya
11 Sep 09 |  Athletics
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
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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