Rio 2016: Team GB athlete Lynsey Sharp defends her Caster Semenya comments

Semenya set a national record when she won gold for South Africa in Rio

Olivia Blair
Monday 22 August 2016 11:51
Lynsey Sharp criticises rule changes

Lynsey Sharp has defended comments she made about rule changes concerning hyperandrogenic athletes following her defeat to Caster Semenya in the 800 metre final at the Rio Olympics, saying they were "honest and diplomatic".

Semenya's acceleration to dominating the event has been highly publicised after she was faced with intense public scrutiny over her hyperandrogenism, a condition in which some women have higher levels of androgens including testosterone in their bodies. In 2011, she was subject to “gender verification tests” to establish whether she had an unfair advantage in the sport. A ruling by the International Association of Athletics Federation that athletes with the condition must take measures to reduce their testosterone levels was overturned last year.

Following Semenya’s victorious race on Saturday, team GB runner Sharp, who came sixth in the final, broke down in tears when she was asked about Semenya being "light years ahead" . She told the BBC: “I have tried to avoid the issue all year. You can see how emotional it all was [...]. We know how each other feels. It is out of our control and how much we rely on people at the top sorting it out. The public can see how difficult it is with the change of rule but all we can do is give it out best.”

Sharp has now defended her comments after garnering some criticism on Twitter. The 26-year-old discussed how proud she was of her own achievements before saying: “I have a tremendous amount of respect for Caster. She is someone who I talk to regularly on the circuit. I have known and competed against her since 2008. Media and politics should not distract from her performance.

“When asked on live TV, I felt I gave an honest and diplomatic response […] As you can imagine it’s frustrating to finish a race to be asked about your competitor’s performance.”

The row comes as the IAAF are preparing a challenge against the Court for Arbitration in Sport’s decision that overturned the decision athletes with hyperandrogenism have to take measures to limit their testosterone.

After the race in a post-match press conference, Semenya dismissed a question from a reporter over athletes with hyperandrogenism.

“Excuse me, my friend, tonight is all about performance. We’re not here to talk about the IAAF, we’re not here to talk about speculation, tonight is all about performance […] I think it is all about loving one another. It’s not about discriminating against people. It is not about looking at how people look, how they speak, how they run. It is not about being muscular. It is all about sport.”

Semenya is widely regarded as a hero in South Africa, with the majority of athletics fans having rallied behind her over the turbulent past few years. Following her victorious race on Saturday she received an outpouring of support on social media.

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