Caster Semenya debate takes a racist turn  //  From sad to ugly: Semenya's detractors

21 Aug 2009 Posted by

I suppose it was inevitable. Given the charged nature of the debate, given the controversy that can see 200 comments written to an article, the debate around the sex of Caster Semenya was always going to provoke emotive responses.

But how about this one:

“This is about racism,” Chuene said. “These rumours come from South Africa. Why did these people write to the IAAF?”

These are the same people who don’t want the 2010 World Cup, the same people who bring black people down and the same people who refuse to believe that Africans can make it on the world stage.”

You might think this is random statement made in the heat of the moment. But then you discover that this is a statement made by the President of Athletics South Africa, Leonard Cheune. And he is not alone. The Young Communist League here in South Africa said:

This smacks of racism of the highest order. It represents a mentality of conforming feminine outlook within the white race

Of course, all are entitled to their opinion. It does not escape my attention that one of the most celebrated races of the entire world champs was the women’s 10,000m, where Linet Masai outkicked Melkamu for gold.

ASA denies all responsibility

However, what I’m more concerned with is the following statement by Cheune:

Chuene denied that ASA could have put out fires before they started if they had tested Semenya before she rose to the highest stage of international athletics.

“The responsibility of the federation (ASA) is to train children and take them to the championships,” Chuene said. “When a child is born, the parents don’t take them for tests to find out if it is a boy or a girl, they simply look.

“The family will bring us a child and say they have given us a girl, and we accept that.

“We then prepare her, which we did, and she went on to win gold, so we’ve done our job. You tell me what more we could have done.”

The reality, Mr Cheune and ASA, is that there was a lot of reason to suspect, because Caster Semenya has herself said that she has faced allegation and rumor ever since she was young. Similarly, her coach, Michael Seme, has said many times that she has been questioned, all through her career.

And finally, I have it on very good authority that people from South Africa had objected long before world championships. This is a problem that has existed for years.

ASA’s responsibility and possible actions

Next, it is VERY MUCH ASA’s responsibity to manage Semenya’s the athlete, which surely includes this aspect. It is only in a completely amateur organization, which has zero strategic plan, where a federation can limit it’s responsibility to training athletes only.

To put this as simply as possible, there are only four possible scenarios here:

  1. ASA did not do a single test on Semenya. If this is true, they have ignored the controversy, and the very obvious impending situation, and sent her into the Worlds, where this problem was going to surface. In this case, we have a case of neglect and irresponsibility.
  2. ASA did do some tests, but only cursory tests, which they believe sufficed. As we’ve explained, and many of you have commented, the sex determination test is enormously possible, with a risk of false results. If this is what happened, then it is a case of carelessness. And yet Semenya was sent, without proper process being followed, ASA should be held accountable.
  3. ASA did a very comprehensive tests, or did a minimum level of test, and uncovered that there was in fact grounds for suspicion. If this was true, then there is no way ASA should have entered Semenya, because they knew that a problem would arise. If they did, effectively playing Russain roulette with a young women’s life, it would be despicable.
  4. ASA did a very comprehensive test, and discovered no reason at all to doubt her sex. If this was true, ASA would be in the clear, and no problem would exist. I think it’s safe to say that this was NOT done, because Cheune would have said so in his interview and this problem would have been managed.

I’m not sure if there is anything I’m missing here? The way I see it, these are the only three options. What of the IAAF? People have accused them of bringing this on themselves.

I disagree. I know that the IAAF sent a letter to ASA requested a report, on July 31 this year – that was after Semenya ran 1:56 in Mauritius. This letter is crucial, because it indicates that there were grounds for suspicion, that ASA knew of the potential problem (which makes a mockery of Chuene’s claims).

My wish is to find out what the ASA response to that request was. What did ASA say in response to the IAAF? Was testing conducted? How was it done? And most important, what did it find? If it found any evidence at all for a problem, then there should be grave consequences indeed.

But to blame racism for this…that only compounds the problem.

How sad. Disgraceful.


This post is part of the following threads: Caster Semenya, News/Controversies – ongoing stories on this site. View the thread timelines for more context on this post.

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