Welcome to the Science of Sport, where we bring you the second, third, and fourth level of analysis you will not find anywhere else.

Be it doping in sport, hot topics like Caster Semenya or Oscar Pistorius, or the dehydration myth, we try to translate the science behind sports and sports performance.

Consider a donation if you like what you see here!


Did you know?
We published The Runner's Body in May 2009. With an average 4.4/5 stars on Amazon.com, it has been receiving positive reviews from runners and non-runners alike.

Available for the Kindle and also in the traditional paper back. It will make a great gift for the runners you know, and helps support our work here on The Science of Sport.



Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Caster Semenya cleared? Is this finally the verdict?

Caster Semenya to return to competition: Reports from the IAAF

It is being reported that Caster Semenya, South Africa's 800m World Champion, will be given the all clear to return to the track.  Before getting carried away at the conclusion of what seemed a never-ending saga, let's remember that on no fewer than three occasions, the SA government have organized triumphant press conferences only to cancel them at the last minute to delay the announcement further.

However, on this occasion, a reputable source, the Telegraph, are reporting that the IAAF will make the announcement and not the SA government, which gives one more confidence that perhaps, this is the final decision.  The story from the Telegraph can be read here.

If it is indeed the case, then it will bring to an end 10 months of speculation, rumour, accusation, and denial.  We've tried to follow the story, from its beginning in August last year, and there is not too much more to be said about why it has taken this long, and what may have happened over the last 10 months.

In the report by the Telegraph, I feel the most telling paragraph is this one:
"Her coach, Michael Seme, has admitted that she has not been training at 100 per cent due to the uncertainty over her future, while it is also believed that she has been undergoing medical treatment for an inter-sex condition."
That alleged treatment, which I also believe to have taken place, holds the key to why this has taken so long.  The IAAF, you'll recall us discussing before, find themselves in a difficult situation of having to avoid discrimination against ANY athlete (not only Semenya, as the SA sports fraternity wanted to believe).  So their obligation was to ensure equality of competition without discrimination.  And there are a range of issues about this, from social to cultural, even religious, all of which have been had in various forms over the last 10 months.

However, from a sporting point of view (and my bias here is sporting performance), the requirement is to manage the case to ensure that all athletes receive fair competition.  Therefore, treatment, to lower the testosterone levels and attempt to reduce any advantage as a result of high testosterone, would have had to take place, and that may be the reason this has taken so long to resolve.

Legal Tug of War

Because make no mistake, actually diagnosing the condition is a relatively simple procedure.  Knowing what to do about it, not as simple.  So over the last 8 or 9 months, the issue has probably been how to treat (if at all) to ensure competition.  The legal teams on both sides would have had their requirements.  I've no doubt at all that the IAAF would have been pushing for surgical removal of testes, where Semenya's camp would probably have resisted this.  The IAAF will probably have pushed for surgery as a key requirement for Semenya to continue her career in athletics - I'm not sure of the legal issues around this, but that is likely to have been their desire.  Semenya's team may have argued against this as an infringement on her right to decide on her medical treatment, and also to compete without that surgery. 

The eventual compromise may have been medical/hormonal treatment, and the process of the treatment and monitoring the response to that treatment would take time to track.  Hence the delay.

Will the details of the process be announced?  Or does speculation continue?

Of course, this is all speculation, and hopefully, further announcements will clear it up.  Here again, we have another fierce debate - should more detail be disclosed, or does "medical confidentiality" dictate that no announcement is made?  I've felt since the beginning that once the first leak happened, it would be in Semenya's best interests announce as much detail as she could without compromising herself too much.  In fact, if I think about it, the more she discloses the better, even at the risk of giving away too much information.  Better to control the facts than allow them to be made up or to sow mistrust and suspicion that it was a 'technicality' that got her cleared.  Simply returning to competition with no announcement will create mistrust and another round of speculation as the rumour mill begins to spin.  On the other hand, one can appreciate Semenya's desire for privacy, but this will be interesting to follow. 

The impact of reduced testosterone on performance?

The other very interesting thing to observe is whether Semenya's performance levels will remain where they were.  This is what most athletics followers will now be looking at.  If it is true that her testosterone levels have been reduced, even chemically, then it will certainly have an impact on performance, mostly because of the effect it will have on her training adaptation.

Athletes use testosterone as a drug primarily because it enables a higher level of training performance and more rapid recovery post-training.  The combination of the two equals improved performance.  A removal of testosterone would impair both direct responses and recovery capacity, and I feel that the recovery is the more crucial of the two in the larger scheme of things.  The immediate effect of 'testosterone withdrawal', in an athletic sense, is to reduce the level of training the athlete can manage without either running into injury or overtraining.

Therefore, if Semenya is to return, what is more telling will be how she adjusts her training, and not necessarily her race performances, because these are the result of her training performances, and whether her coach is able to manage an athlete who may very well be going through substantial physiological changes.  That will be the first big hurdle to overcome.

The East Germans had previously calculated that a doping programme (primarily with anabolic hormones, of which testosterone is one) could improve performance in shot put by 17% in one season!  That is not an acute effect, mind you.  Rather, it is the cumulative effect of the training that is done while doping and benefiting from higher testosterone levels.  The east Germans also worked out that doping was worth between 5 and 10 seconds in an 800m event for women.  In fact, for those who are interested in this research, you can read that post, based on the secret documents uncovered by Werner Franke, here.

Is the "loss of performance" when reducing anabolic hormone levels the same as the gain from increasing them?  Honestly, I don't know.  I don't think anyone does, and this case has no precedent.  So there are no answers.  Some of the physiological and anatomical changes induced by testosterone during puberty will never be reversed, others will.  How performance, the sum of all these factors, is affected, remains to be seen.

Of course, all of this is speculation, because we still don't know the details.  And so we're back again to the issue of whether anything will be said, other than that "she is clear to compete".

The next steps will be interesting.

Ross

34 Comments:

Anonymous said...

What about Serena Williams? Looks to me like she has a significant physical advantage over her peers - whether natural or otherwise. I don't recall her ever having to go through the same scrutiny as Caster Semenya.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

To Anonymous,

I think it's a different situation, that. In fact, there's a comedian in SA who has used that one in jokes. For all we know, she has, but I really doubt it, given the background and situation. I just don't see her physiologically that way, and the distinction between a muscular woman and a case of sex-categorization is, to me, pretty clear. And Serena Williams is big and strong, yes, but I've never questioned her sex.

For some thoughts on "natural advantage vs unfair", check out:

http://www.sportsscientists.com/2010/04/semenya-will-announce-her-results.html

And for some thoughts regarding the process:
http://www.sportsscientists.com/2009/08/sex-determination-in-sport.html

Ross

Sentinel said...

Serena Williams is 100% female. Nothing masculin about her.

I understand the IAAF refusal to give the gender results out of repesct for Caster Semenya, but by not doing so what is one to think? Now if Semenya is 100% female, why doesn't IAAF state this? It would put her in the clear.

If she's cross gendered, The IAAF could quitely prevent her from running again. No need to report to the world about the gender results unless she decides to come clean. It's not fair to female runners by allowing Semenya to run again, not knowing if she's male, female or both.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the others who said there is no doubt about Serena's sex. However, she is extremely strong for a female tennis player. This strength advantage is most apparent in her second serve--she has a "kick" serve which almost no other woman can hit.
The kick serve is a very important shot for two reasons:
1. It is extremely reliable (as a second serve must be)
2. It bounces high, making it difficult to return, especially if your opponent is short or weak in the upper body.

The second serve is important because it is difficult to succeed if you make a lot of double faults, or are worried about double faulting--this type of worry causes people to become overly conservative on their first serve. OTOH, if you have a good kick second serve, you can afford to "go for it" on your first serve. You will also be more confident in your overall ability to hold serve, so you can afford to be more aggressive when you are returning serve as well.

Thus it is not an exaggeration to say the second serve is the foundation of one's entire game in competitive play. On the men's circuit, nearly everybody can hit a kick serve, and returning it is not as hard either--thanks to upper body strength in both cases. But on the women's side, it is a huge advantage since few women can hit it. One of the only other women besides Serena who can hit this serve is Samantha Stosur, and she too looks like a bodybuilder in the shoulders.

IMO the kick serve requires a critical mass of strength to be effective, and most women simply lack this strength. Therefore they don't have the serve. The few who do can really play on a different level.

The closest analogy I can think of on the men's circuit is the strength advantage Rafael Nadal enjoys on clay. His topspin has been clocked at 4900 rpm, the fastest on the tour. I think the average male player is around 3000 rpm. This certainly allows Nadal to bend the ball more and on clay, the ball jumps much higher in response to topspin. Of course, Nadal is blessed with superhuman speed and mental strength as well, but I believe it is his topspin which gives him a fundamental advantage on clay.

Dominic said...

Oh good grief, when will people stop with the nonsense analogies such as "well Usain Bolt is tall therefore he has an advantage" now this "Sererna Williams is powerful so she has an advantage". They are both competing in categories defined by gender, not height or strength, its really not that difficult to understand.

Anonymous said...

When are people going to leave the poor girl alone?
The IAAF has decided she is eligible to compete and that should be the end of it.

Jack Hawkins said...

Of course the issue should not be let alone. The IAAF may deem Caster Semenya a woman, but there is as much reason on the other side to reject their judgement. It takes quite a lot of events to go right to make a healthy, well formed man or woman. Usually all does go right but when things go pear-shaped, sex categorization is not impossible, not a coin flip, or a matter for primitive parents, John Money/Doctor Frankenstein types, venal coaches or state officials.

Caster Semenya is a man. He is a man in need of repair qua man as much as David Reimer was a man in need of repair. Let him be repaired to compete with other men, and urge him to cease troubling women athletes who are entitled to compete with women.

Zola Budd said...

What about the ethic part and the legal part? Is it even legal to claim an investigation like this in front of the world about somebodys gender? She must have been suffering badly from the damage on her integrity. IAAF could have coped with it in a more human way...

Zola Budd said...

What about the ethic part? She must have been suffering badly from the damage on her integrity. IAAF could have coped with it in a more human way...

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Folks

Some quick responses:

To Dominic:

I agree with you 100%. This "advantage is normal in sport" argument has been around for a while and it's completely ridiculous to me.

As long as categories for male and female exist, you must defend that line. If the category for height is created to allow short people in basketball to compete, then would it be fair to allow a 2m tall giant to play against shorter people? Of course not. As long as there are categories, they must be defended. So draw analogies with Bolt or Phelps or any other athlete who is already in the right category is a silly argument.

To Sentinel:

Exactly. They have hidden behind confidentiality and ultimately, they'll have to confront it again when the issue becomes the subject of rumour and speculation. Instead of waiting for this, they should have controlled it by working with Semenya to announce more about the test results and the process that has taken 11 months to complete.

I must also point out though, that ultimately, Semenya would have to take responsibility for announcing the details. The results are hers, and so it's her decision to announce or not to, not the IAAF's. But by not working together, they're only going to encounter the problems again.

To Anonymous at 2:17AM:

When they trust that fairness has been met for ALL sides, not only that of the "poor girl". As much as this whole thing should have been avoided, the sport has to maintain some level of fairness in its categorizations, and this announcement does nothing for it. I don't trust the situation as it stands now. But I have more insight to what actually happened behind the scenes, since I'm in South Africa and know a little more than the statement let on.

However, to the wider athletics community, there's no resolution at all. It could be a technicality for all we know. And so it's not the "poor girl" who is the problem, it is the lack of transparency.

To Jack Hawkins:

Thank you for saying that. I can only agree.

To Zola Budd:

Yes, absolutely, and I think you will find that there was some form of compensation for this. Not that you can "buy" back dignity and human rights, but it was definitely part of the whole issue. So yes, the iAAF could have coped better. But how does that change what needs to happen now? If the IAAF had not done anything, the other side would be equally critical. So it's a difficult one.

Ross

Frans Rutten said...

The uproar about Caster Semenya began with showing her face. One of the first articles didn't even show her fase by just showing a photo with her feet.

The latest AFP article shows two pictures of her: present and past. A feminin look vs a masculin look.
So she has undergone medical treatment? Most likely.

From the beginning I saw how the "Pamela Jelimo case", her Rise and Fall, must be intertwined with the "Caster Semenya case".

Almost two years after her stellar Rise, Pamela Jelimo, is trailing in her current meets about as far back, as she once was closing in the domain of the men.
1:55-1:43 vs. 1:55-2:03.
I can think of only one reason!

We will soon know more.

Anonymous said...

Her future success will depend largely on her coach's ability to adjust her training program to her decreased work capacity. We'll see if he is up to the task or if if he was just lucky to have landed such a huge 'talent' last year.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

To anonymous:

Agreed, assuming of course that her testosterone levels have been lowered (and remain lower - the whole issue of monitoring this is another one entirely).

Ross

Frans Rutten said...

Caster Semenya skips World Juniors in Canada, but obviously for a very poor reason.

Today, she subsequently failed two fitness tests. She run 600m in 1:38and after a 5 min. break again 600m in 1:35. Apparently she was no longer in top shape (training).

Pamela Jelimo did 600m splits of
1:25.12 en route to her 1:54.01
1:24.59 en route to her 1:54.99
1:24.03 en route to her 1:54.87

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Frans

I think you're probably correct about the whole Jelimo-Semenya comparison, and I've agreed with you since the beginning.

But the latest posts have been somewhat more vindictive and not particularly constructive to the argument. If it is true that she has not been training, then a 1:35 600m time is entirely predictable and expected. It's neither due to testosterone and nor does it disprove it. And also, comparison with Jelimo's times is irrelevant, given the training status of the two. The only comparison that is relevant is when Semenya runs at a major championships again. She may be slower - I think she will be - but I won't be coming out with "I told you so", because that serves no one in this case.

As for the reason to skip World Champs, that's a very appropriate reason to miss a race. If you're not fit enough, then you don't race. So I disagree that it's a "very poor reason".

Let's see what happens over the next few weeks. I believe she'll be slower, and I think she'll probably overtrain. But right now, let's not read more into things than we should.

Ross

Frans Rutten said...

Well, Ross, at first I had to look up the word vindictive. Wow.

My only purpose is to put objective facts (her times) in perspective. I also could have compared Caster Semenya to her own Olympic race, where she ran splits like 56,83s and 1:26,96, followed by a 28,49 closure (1:53.96 pace flying start).
Pamela Jelimo practised more time-trialling and did finish significantly slower.

Surely, Semenya will have needed time to recover from all the turmoil and cut her training to what extent (?), but the time of her return originally seemed always to be set for the 24th of June. And now, she wouldn’t have been training properly? That’s the reason, why I called this skipping for a very poor reason.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Frans

Yeah, after I submitted my response I thought of posting again - "vindictive" is not the entirely accurate word. What I'm getting at is that it's far too early to be pointing out any kind of comparisons between Semenya and Jelimo, and it kind of strikes me as driving the nail in too soon. So that's what I was getting at - sorry for the use of an unnecessarily harsh word!

Your thoughts have always been very accurate - i remember right from the beginning you posted and pointed out the Jelimo angle, and it certainly seems you were onto something. And your numbers and figures have been great, so I hope you can accept that my choice of word wasn't quite right. But I guess from my side, it's unfair on both Jelimo and Semenya to draw comparisons, because a) we don't really know what happened with Jelimo - it seems a strong probability, but I don't want to speculate about something so very personal, and b) Semenya's case has a long way to go.

So all I'm saying is that Semenya's performances will take a long time to return to a level that even allows us to compare "like with like". Re her training, that meeting on the 24th was cancelled in late May, and i suspect she would have found it impossible to get into any other races, so i can certainly believe that she hasn't been training.

Let's see what happens!

Ross

Frans Rutten said...

Accepted.

When it comes to judging sport, particularly when objectively measurable to a very high degree, I'm for sure a hardliner. Be it Usain Bolt, Lance Armstrong, Pamela Jelimo and of cause Caster Semenya.

But you're right, let's just wait.
Even in a few months a lot could happen.

Anonymous said...

firstly, the IAAF released no such clearance... secondly, look people:

http://gymnasticscoaching.com/new/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/caster-semenya-11.jpg

This is NOT a woman. I don't care that his father tells him so. I don't care that he has a flap of skin hiding his vestigal penis and testicles inside of his groin area. I... don't even understand how, even without an external penis, he could think for an instant he is female.

They need to not allow him to compete against women; and how is anyone taking this man's claim he is female at all seriously?

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

To Anonymous at 12:24AM:

To answer your final question, "how is anyone taking this man's claim he is female at all seriously?"

The answer is, they're not. The reason for the investigation and the medical treatment is that they didn't believe it and want to investigate further. The only people who are now claiming there was never a problem are the foolish politicians who, frankly, don't know any better and will bend the truth to suit them. Everyone else took very seriously the doubts raised about Semenya.

If it eventually transpires that the IAAF have done nothing and decided that Semenya is a woman, then I will be equally outspoken, because I agree with you in principle.

However, I don't think a picture supports your case at all. And certainly, the presence of testes doesn't either - conditions like AIS don't make people men, they are still very much women (look up Maria Patino for an example of this).

So the situation is a little more complex that your position would suggest. And so while I agree with you that some treatment or intervention was required, I would not suggest that Semenya is entirely male.

And the IAAF did very much release the clearance - did you read the press release? They have cleared Semenya to run against women. What they haven't said is whether they do this after a course of treatment, which is the big unanswered question. I believe they have treated, but time will tell.

Ross

Anonymous said...

The comment about Serena is utterly ridiculous. The tone suggests anger, jealousy and resentment.
As far as I know, tennis is open to women of ALL shapes and sizes.I find it stunning that she’d be so fiercely criticized because she chooses to work out to gain strength and maintain a lean body.
Martina was also a dominant player. I never heard anyone recommending test on her.
It is MORE than obvious, Serena Williams is all woman!

b said...

To say that Semanya "is a man" is really not your right. First of all, gender identity is not just anatomy; its also psychological identification, and Semenya has been raised as a girl and identifies as a woman-its her identity, she lives it, not you. Secondly, if there's anything this process shows us, its that the line between "male" and "female" is blurry. Yes, we can figure out that someone has an intersex condition, but the more scientists learn the harder they're finding it to categorize intersex people as one or the other (see Alice Dreger for more on this). That's part of why its taken the IAFF so long to come to a decision-I think its possible that they've forced Semenya to modify her body ("treatment" is not what this is), but I think this is primarily a political decision, not a scientific one. Essentially, our culture (including the way we've organized sports) forces people into these two boxes, when the human body (and soul) is often more complex than that. And for the record, I think it is reasonable to ask why Semenya's extra testosterone is any more "unfair" than Phelp's unusual body shape. Isn't that what allows him to win his races? Weren't they both born with "gifts"?

Commonwealth Games 2010 said...

Finally may be an verdict, Exact fact actually differs.

Dominic said...

Dear "b" - As I remark above, it is really time for people to stop the rubbish analogies such as the one you use about Phelps as all it does is persuade me that you haven't grasped the issues here. Has anyone questioned Phelps' gender? No (as if there would be any point in the case of someone competing as a male). End of chat.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi b

I have to agree with Dominic on this one. To compare Semenya to Phelps because both have an advantage is disingenuous and actually foolish, because people don't compete in categories of foot size or arm length or lung volume or body shape or swimming efficiency. If they did, then Phelps would have to compete in a category against others like him, and those of us not blessed with that shape could compete at a different level.

We do however compete in male and female categories and therefore any advantage that moves an athlete from one category to another (as is the case here), has to be regulated.

Instead of writing all this again, I will suggest that you read the following:

http://www.sportsscientists.com/2010/04/semenya-will-announce-her-results.html

Where I do agree with you is that the line between male and female is blurred - you are 100% right. However, that line, however blurred, has to be maintained. Otherwise we should just let everyone compete together.

It's a complex issue, but to reduce it to "advantage" is really not a valid argument.

Ross

Frans Rutten said...

Happy return for Caster Semenya in Lappeenranta with first place in 2:04.22.

Richard said...

Thanks Ross and Jonathan for this blog. I appreciate the clear way you have with certain issues.

I agree strongly with the statement that the line between male and female has to be maintained. Simply saying, "oh, well, she has more testosterone, it's a genetic thing, let her win...." is really the same as saying, "Testosterone doesn't make a difference, so there is no difference between male and female, so there will only be one category." Then, we get rid of all women's competitions, because the champions would always be what we have thought of before as 'male.' So, the line has to be maintained some how.

I see that Semenya ran 2:04.22 today. That's a reasonable time. What I am curious about is her physical appearance. Did anyone see a film of the race? Does she look different?

Please, I ask simply because it seems the physical appearance last summer was what flagged the performance in Berlin, and brought about all the discussion and the involvement of the IAAF in the case. If there has been some 'treatment', would the appearance change as well?

Thanks.

I have no medical training, just some thoughts.

Rich

Anonymous said...

I believe, from what was leaked to the press, that Caster is most likely a genetic man, with internal male gonads.

It simply isn't fair on other female athletes if he/she has that kind of advantage due to adolescent male body development and testosterone. Now that they've done "something" (I'd love to know what they did), that issue still remains.

I wish Caster no evil, I hope they have stored viable sperm samples so he/she can have children in future.

It's a travesty. It's the same as giving promising young athletes steroids and hormones until they are stronger and bigger, then pretend they are competing fairly as adults.

Caster shouldn't compete as a female, due to the above reasons.

Dominic said...

Rich: I just saw the news highlights and I thought if anything she looked even more physically dominant than previously. This was undoubtedly to do with the physiques of the two other women in shot. But anyone who can watch this and not feel uncomfortable with the equality of the contest because their right-on "gender issues awareness" stance won't allow it is a real example of The Emperor's New Clothes fable.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi All

Sorry for not posting about the race - I had intended to do a post about it, but I got side-tracked. Also, it's a hot-potato here, difficult to talk about without some repercussions, so I have to be cautious about what I say.

I saw the race last night. It was a good first performance, though 9 seconds is 8% slower than her best. Now, it's undoubtedly true that her training has been compromised in the last few months, but by how much we don't know. I do know that most elite athletes can return to within 4 to 5% of their best within months of starting up, so 9% is a big drop-off. However, she may have been inactive since February. That's why it's so difficult to read anything into the performance.

2:04.22 will come down, maybe a 2:01 next time out, then 2:00 and then into the 1:59s by August, who knows?

She didn't appear any different, though that may not be a good guide, because bone structure and shape wouldn't change. She certainly seemed as muscular as before, but again, being muscular is not a predictor for the testing. In all, not sure what to make of it.

One thing that I will say is that if she is a genetic male (having a Y-chromosome, that is), it doesn't necessarily preclude her from competing as a female, because the genetic code and the physiological development aren't always matched - if you fail to use testosterone, for example, then it doesn't matter how much is there, you develop as a female. So are you male or female? That's the big question...

I am certainly of the opinion that if a condition (like AIS or any other that allows a female to develop male physiological performance advantages) challenges the gender line then that person shouldn't compete at the lower level. And as I've written often on the site, this is analogous to having height or weight categories for basketball or boxing, but allowing certain athletes in because "it's not their fault".

So I share your concerns for the sport, but I appreciate how difficult it is. Just a final note to Anonymous, the sperm are unlikely to be viable in these conditions anyway.

Ross

Sarah said...

I'm so happy Caster is back racing!

All you angry men(and there doesn't need to be any gender tests to know you are male) aggressively insisting that Caster is a man need to accept that the IAAF has decided, after Caster was subjected to degrading and dehumunising gender tests, that she is indeed eligible to compete against women so you need to get over it. Do you honestly thing if the IAAF could have found even a small reason to ban Caster they wouldn't have? This whole episode has made them look bad so I'm sure they would have been happy if they'd be able to ban Caster.

And the people who think they have a right to know Caster's private medical information are forgetting that it never should have been public knowledge in the first place that she had gender tests. Women athletes are gender tested all the time but it's kept confidential.

Please find it within yourselves to have some empathy for a teenage girl who's done nothing wrong and has been put through an awful ordeal.

I'm a non intersex woman and I really believe Caster is great for women's sports. If I were an athlete I wouldn't have a problem racing against women like Caster.

Please let her be.

Sarah said...

Sorry for all the mistakes in my post.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Sarah

Not necessarily - the IAAF would risk as much by banning her as they do letting her run, so your argument that the IAAF would have been happy to ban her is not correct. Many will argue that the only reason they haven't banned her is because they'd have a PR nightmare if they did.

Now, I don't know the inner workings of their decision. However, having followed this since August 2009, I can assure you of the following:

a) They knew in August that there was a problem. This is not like on a TV show like "House" where it takes Hollywood actors and a script to figure out the medical problem. It's actually very easy to diagnose an intersex condition, and a team of doctors would have a verdict in a week.

So that's one week gone. How do you account for the other 39 weeks? Legal wrangling? I doubt it. And let's be clear - if the IAAF could clear her, they would have, because it was always in their best interests to have her run and end this PR debacle for them.

So therefore, what you have is a situation where they were trying hard to clear a way for her to run. You seem to have conveniently forgotten the other women athletes who will now face her. And you are very quick to accuse "angry men" of wanting her not to run - wait until women start speaking. and with the greatest of respect, you're not an athlete, so what would you know about the pressures of competing and having to win in elite sport? So when you say "If I were an athlete, I wouldn't have a problem racing against a woman like Caster", you're being really disingenuous. You aren't, and you don't know, so you can't speculate.

I do know that other women will be upset and feel discriminated against if she runs against them. What has likely happened, in my view, is that Semenya has had medical treatment, and so her rivals may accept that this treatment removes her advantage. But "let her be", unfortunately doesn't work in elite sport, because Semenya is not the only athlete who's rights are in question here.

FInally, I agree that medical info should remain confidential, but given the first leak, I believe it would be in Semenya's best interests to make some disclosure, simply to quell the speculation, which is inevitable.

Empathy? Yes, sure, and that's been acknowledged a great deal (trace it back to the beginning and you'll see this often). But simply letting it be? No, I don't think that's right. And women's voices will be added to this in time.

Ross

Dominic said...

Sarah - The biggest mistake in your post by miles is that I am an angry man. You miss - as does everyone who takes your stance - that of course Caster Semenya deserves respect and consideration but so do the women competing against her! A very odd and one-eyed logical stance then to make me an "angry man". Another logical fallacy is that a gender test is somehow this huge disrespect of a person, I would deal with it simply by introducing it across the board for all athletes, male and female so it just becomes a routine thing. I'm a mediocre competitive runner but I'd happily be tested.