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Sunday, 23 August 2009

Gender Bender

Gavin has already spoken about this earlier in the week, and some interesting debate was generated but its a rainy Sunday morning, and there's nothing I enjoy more then flicking through the Sunday Sports papers. The back pages of the sports sections are full of opinion on the South African 18 year old Caster Semenya. Semenya won gold in the 800 m at the 2009 World Championships in Athletics with a time of 1:55.45 in the final, a personal best and the fastest time in the world that year. In August 2009, amid growing speculation, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) conducted a gender verification test in the weeks before the 800m event at the World Championships. Results have not yet been published.

The IAAF have not handled the situation with the sensitivity they should have. It put the poor women into a situation in which the world's eyes were on her and her life itself was put on display and questioned.

The fact of the matter is that these allegations are not new. They have followed Semenya for a few years. Therefore, there was ample time to verify sex (again, a difficult process) and clear the way for her to compete. There is no doubt however, that the question was always going to be raised in Berlin, that people would ask and scrutinize, and so good management and coaching would have seen this resolved BEFORE the Championships even began. Because it was not, we are sadly seeing that Semenya will be the loser in what might well become an ugly story. There is surely nothing more offensive than the question of a woman's sex - even a doping accusation does not come close.

Opinion has been divided amongst athletes and media pundits. "For me, she's not a woman, she's a man," said Italian Elisa Piccione, who finished sixith in the final. "Jeez, she's fair big, she's no bulge down below though, must be a woman," said Pat Conliffe from Castleblayney. This guy had some interesting opinions on the matter.


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