South Africa threatens 'world war' if Semenya receives ban

Simon Turnbull
Saturday 22 October 2011 21:29
Semenya's gender was questioned
Semenya's gender was questioned

South Africa's sports minister yesterday threatened to wage "a third world war" if his country's world champion 800m runner, Caster Semenya, finds herself banned from competition as a result of the tests she has taken to determine her gender.

In the wake of a report in the Sydney Daily Telegraph claiming that the tests carried out at the behest of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) have shown the 18-year-old to be a hermaphrodite, Reverend Makhenkesi Stofile was asked what the South African reaction would be if Semenya were to be barred by the governing body of track and field. He replied: "I think it would be the third world war. We will go to the highest levels in contesting such a decision. I think it would be totally unfair and totally unjust."

The IAAF confirmed yesterday that it had received the results of the gender verification tests but said it would be making no decision on the delicate case until November.

The body issued a statement which read: "The IAAF has noted statements in recent media articles regarding the athlete Caster Semenya of South Africa. We would like to emphasise that these should not be considered as official statements by the IAAF.

"We can officially confirm that gender verification test results will be examined by a group of medical experts. No decision on the case will be communicated until the IAAF has had the opportunity to complete this examination. We do not expect to make a final decision on this case before the next meeting of the IAAF Council which takes place in Monaco on 20-21 November ."

It was three-and-a-half weeks ago that news of the gender tests broke, five hours before Semenya won the women's 800m final at the World Championships in Berlin.

The teenager returned to training last Monday and had been due to compete in her first race as a world champion today – the South African Cross Country Championships in Pretoria. However, she was said to be in hiding yesterday and is unlikely to line up for the 4,000m event.

The Sydney Daily Telegraph report, written by athletics journalist Mike Hurst, who coached Australian runner Darren Clark to the Commonwealth 400m gold in Auckland in 1990, claimed that the IAAF were "ready to disqualify Semenya from future events and advise her to have immediate surgery because her condition carries grave health risks".

The newspaper said the information had been gleaned from "a source closely involved with the Semenya investigations".

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