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Semenya's law firm threatens action

The legal firm representing Caster Semenya has threatened to take legal action to get the world 800m champion back into action on the South African track and field circuit. Dewey & LeBoeuf said yesterday that it would consider mounting a case against Athletics South Africa if the domestic governing body continued to bar its client from competition, pending the outcome of gender verification tests on the 19-year-old by the International Association of Athletics Federations.

Benedict Phiri, a lawyer with Dewey & LeBoeuf, said: "We are considering taking legal action against ASA to allow Caster to run. To our minds, this is effectively an unlawful ban and it is for that reason that we will vigorously fight to protect Caster's rights."

It was reported in South Africa yesterday that Semenya's lawyers had sent a letter to Ray Mali, the acting head of Athletics South Africa, asking for their client to be allowed to run at a meeting at Germiston, near Johannesburg, next Tuesday – and threatening to launch an urgent court application to force the hand of ASA. Mali said that he had not yet received the letter. "It's their prerogative to do that, but I am surprised that they are moving towards legal action," he said. "If it comes, I will have to face it."

Semenya, who has not raced since her stunning victory in the women's 800m final at the World Championships in Berlin last August, is not under formal suspension but the IAAF have asked ASA to keep her away from competition until the results of the gender verification tests are confirmed, which is expected to be in June. "The main request was to be patient," Mali said. "I will be the first one to knock on the door and get them to keep their word for June."

Nick Davies, communications director of the world governing body, said: "The IAAF will have no comment to make until the process is complete."