Semenya 'hermaphrodite' claims denied

IAAF to 'interpret' results of gender test leaving athlete's family 'humiliated'

Lewis Smith
Friday 11 September 2009 00:00
Caster Semenya crossing the line forworld championship gold in Berlin lastmonth before controversy eruptedover the issue of her gender
Caster Semenya crossing the line forworld championship gold in Berlin lastmonth before controversy eruptedover the issue of her gender

The family of a South African teenager who won a gold medal at the athletics world championships have angrily hit out at claims she is a hermaphrodite.

An investigation into the gender of Caster Semenya was sparked after concerns were voiced at the 18-year-old's masculine appearance and a series of fast performances on the track, including victory in the women's 800m last month.

Officials at the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) confimed they received the results of the tests yesterday but are keeping them secret until they have been properly considered and the athlete informed.

Lesiba Rammabi, Miss Semenya's uncle, responded angrily to reports in the Australian Daily Telegraph that the tests had revealed she possesses both male and female sex organs and has no womb.

"I believe Caster is normal, inside and out," he said. "What does it matter whether she can have babies or not? Many people cannot have children, why else do parents adopt? Are those women not women also? We are a normal family who looked at a child when she was born, saw that she was a girl and raised her as any other family would do. Are we now being told that we are wrong?

"We are very humiliated by what has been said and do not understand how it can be true. This is a woman who was raised a female. She will always be female, no matter what people say."

Nick Davies, a spokesman for the IAAF, said it was likely to be another fortnight before any decision is announced on the outcome of the gender tests.

"We have the final results from the specialist tests carried out in Germany," he said. "These now need to be interpreted by a panel of experts drawn from the IAAF Medical Commission and some outside specialists as well. It is likely that we will be in a position to then discuss the results, in private, with Semenya, and decide on the course of action and any public announcement."

If it is determined that the teenager has a medical condition which means she has excessive testosterone naturally, the IAAF is not expected to strip her of her gold medal.

The tests on the athlete, a University of Pretoria student, were carried out in Berlin and involved an endocrinologist, a gynaecologist and a psychologist. Leonard Chuene, the president of Athletics South Africa, said the organisation stood by the teenager and would be advising her to avoid making any statement until the IAAF had formally told her the test results.

He said of suggestions the athlete was a hermaphrodite: "We are ignoring these claims. We cannot comment on them as we know nothing about them. We will wait for the due process to be followed. We cannot get involved in gossip of this sort. She is at university at the moment. She must concentrate on her studies. We stand fully behind her as our athlete."

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