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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Caster Semenya - cover-ups, lies and confusion

The debacle that is Caster Semenya's case. And more will follow

For those who have not been following this astonishing story, Athletics South Africa boss Leonard Chuene admitted on the weekend that he lied about not having prior knowledge of the doubt around Caster Semenya, and has admitted that he authorized tests on Semenya in South Africa before the team left for the IAAF World Champs in Berlin.

He has also admitted that he received medical advice from the team doctor that she should NOT run against women, but that he over-ruled the expert opinion, saying that he would not act on 'rumor', and entered Semenya anyway.

The time-line of this story now looks as follows:

  • 31 July - Semenya runs 1:56.72 in Mauritius
  • 3 August - the IAAF requests testing or some investigation
  • The request is acted upon by Dr Harold Adams, who was the Team Doctor for the Berlin World Championships (Chuene denied this, by the way, even though his own federation issued a press statement naming Adams as the doctor)
  • 7 August - testing is done at a clinic in Pretoria. Semenya is told that the process is for doping purposes, not a gender test. She was apparently very distressed and confused, but no explanation was given
  • Adams then advised Chuene to withdraw Semenya, since his results revealed that she should not compete. We do not know what he found - was it the same as the Australian media are alleging? Was it definitive? Was further testing required? We may never know the answers to these questions
  • Chuene (via a process that has yet to be revealed, but SA readers can watch 3rd Degree on E-TV tonight at 21h30 for more) over-ruled the expert opinion, and entered Semenya anyway
  • Chuene launched a campaign of misinformation and denial, failing to give the IAAF the results from this testing, and denied that it had ever been done. He sowed confusion to allow Semenya to run and win the medal
  • Once the leak to the media had occurred, revealing that the IAAF had commissioned its own tests (which it had to, since ASA "buried" theirs), Chuene attacked first Australia, then white media, then everyone else. Political leaders threw their weight behind him, and the IAAF were slammed for their discrimination. And let's be clear - the IAAF should be ashamed of that leak, but should not have to defend that they requested testing, on two occasions. Their handling of the case has in fact been by the book, with the exception of the leak. Unfortunately, that leak gave ASA and others the license to pass the accountability, which has delayed the inevitable truth somewhat.
Chuene's confession - not all that surprising

Chuene's confession, which has been viewed as a revelation here in SA by many of our politicians and media correspondents, is in fact nothing more than confirmation of what a lot of people have been saying since the beginning. In fact, if you go back to the start of this debacle, you'll see many people were saying that this smacked of a cover-up, and that Chuene was lying from day 1. Once Wilfred Daniels resigned as high performance coach, and alleged that ASA had done testing, it was a case that someone was lying. Daniels had nothing to gain from lying, having sacrificed his job to come clean. The vocal support thrown behind Chuene disregarded that the possibility that he was lying even existed.

Saturday's press conference merely confirmed this. It was, to be clear, inconceivable that ASA could NOT have known of the situation, and the sum of all the allegations and reports added up to the fact that ASA did know and that Chuene was lying all along - it took his confession to finally open people up to this possibility.

Take for example, the following piece that I wrote the day after Semenya won the 800m gold medal:
"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 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"

    - Science of Sport, 21 August 2009

What time has revealed is that the answer was Number 3 - ASA did the tests, they knew the problem existed, and they chose to enter her despite this. And then they launched a campaign of aggressive accusation, slander and denial. Among some of the gems we've heard was Leonard Chuene labelling entire nations as racist, calling entire universities stupid, and attacking anyone who dared suggest that perhaps ASA had not managed this situation appropriately.

We had a Minister of Sport threatening Third World War if Semenya's medal was taken away, even though two statements by high-ranking officials from the IAAF said that this would not be the case.

And we had a range of political figures discussing Caster Semenya's genitalia while she sat, expressionless, on the stage at a political rally/press conference when the team arrived back. Female athletes were labelled as ugly, others had their genitals discussed in public, and people were told "so what if she is a hermaphrodite".

Complete disregard for expertise, which was a phone call away

It has been, to be blunt, an embarrassing time to be a South African in athletics and sport. Nowhere in this entire fiasco did a person of authority actually state that expertise will be called in, and that they will respect the scientific evidence and process presented to them. Only after the allegations got so bad that they were compelled did they finally announce "internal inquiries" and scientific panels, whose purpose was primarily to expose the flawed process of the IAAF.

Not once has a public figure acknowledged the role of experts in potentially preventing this problem - Chuene has now admitted that he overruled the expert advice he was given (that advice is being called "rumor", which is hardly surprising when you consider that universities are apparently "stupid").

All the while, experts were a phone-call away - one thing that I have discovered in following this is that there are people, who in 30 seconds, can explain the complexities of the science to you. Endocrinologists, chemical pathologists, a neuroscientist, a genetic counselor - I've had the privilege of interacting with all these people, and they clarify the issue within a minute.

The Minister of Sport actually wrote me a letter, asking that I stop speaking critically about their role (specifically, he referred to my criticism of his "Third World War" rhetoric). In his letter, he said the "science is complex". Problem is, it's not. What is complex is the ethical debate, as Zoe, Alessandra and Tina have been showing at a previous post - but the science is pretty straight-forward, what you do with the science, that's less obvious.

Many people - endocrinologists, psychologists, geneticists, physiologists - deal with it all the time. It's only complex when you're not listening, because the facts get in the way of the story...

Perhaps away from the media glare, people have cared, but what has been said in public has betrayed a scrambling for the moral high ground like we've not seen. Unfortunately, those who clamoured for the high ground are now looking down, and discovering that they're standing on a mole-hill.

What next?

I can also guarantee that this is by no means the last of the revelation, and more will follow. Tonight, on South African television, Debra Patta of the show 3rd Degree will reveal more information - I'll leave it to her, and the media in the next few days, to reveal that, but if you are in SA, make a point to watch at 21h30, because she will explain exactly what transpired in the build-up to Berlin.

Then, ASA has a council meeting on Thursday, at which the future of Leonard Chuene will be discussed. Whether the council will recommend that he step down is anyone's guess. The media and most political parties have called for his resignation, which he has refused, saying that he will not run away. So if the council elect to leave him in (this is the same council that commended him for handling the matter "exceptionally well" only 10 days ago, so it's not inconceivable), then there may well be intervention from higher up, since SASCOC (our Olympic Committee) have rightly said they will investigate that he lied openly to them as well.

I would also suggest, however, given that Chuene had medical results which he deliberately buried and kept from the IAAF (and it seems that these medical results are incriminating and would have prevented Semenya from running), that he be held to account for what was effectively fraud. I would also propose that ASA should be sanctioned, possibly by denying them participation in the 2011 IAAF World Championships.

Unfortunately, this has exposed the administration of sport and failure of athlete management to the highest degree. People have focused on the events since August, when the IAAF first requested. But, in reality, a professional system would have picked up problems long before this. It's a telling indictment on SA sport that this did not happen. The authorities dismiss as "allegation and rumor" anything that is not proven, but an organization that manages high performance sport effectively is able to predict the future, and control it, precisely because allegation and rumor are the first signs of an impending problem.

Reactionary high performance, combined with ambition to win and which ignores expertise, produces what we are seeing now.



JoeGarland said...

July 31, not August.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Joe

Quite right, thank you. caught it just too late, but I've gone back and edited it now...


Anonymous said...

Great post! I hope that there will be a sum-up of the revelations that comes up in the 3rd degree report that airs on SA TV, for the rest of us that lives outside of South Africa. I would appreciate that very much, I try to catch up on all new developments in this case and this blog has become the glue that ties it all together for me, in an intelligent and objective non-emotinal way may I add. And that's a good thing in a case that has become about so much more than just gender. I just read an article from SA, written by a journalist that calls Chuene a hero (!) for letting Semenya run despite the advise from dr. Adams. Unbelieavable.. It's like this case is deviding SA in terms of race as well.. It seems there are black people within the ASA and politicians, who would rather keep Chuene than let the countrys atheltics fall back into the hands of SA's white people. So this case is bound to get much uglier. I just hope Caster Semenya can compete again, it was her dream after all, and hopefully it won't be taken away from her. It's just become a big mess, mostly thanks to the ASA themselfs.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Anonymous

Thanks for that, and yes, I'll definitely summarize the report that comes out of Third Degree tonight. I spoke to Debra Patta, the journalist who runs the show (like CNN's Amanpour or Katie Couric in the USA) and she told me pretty much what to expect, so I'm going to post as soon as she gets to reveal it tonight.

So maybe tomorrow.

But it's extra-ordinary that people are thinking of it as heroic. I dare say it's not dividing people among race lines, because a lot of people from all races have come out in condemnation against Chuene. I think it's got more to do with greed, and some agenda that has to do with power and money, control.

And those things are of course independent of race. But sadly, in South Africa, those who occupy positions of power can fall back into this position all too easily - rather blame race and keeping the sport away from white people than acknowledge that a lot of this comes down to nothing more than greed and powerlust.

Thanks for the feedback!


Sam said...

If there is a way to way the report over the internet, can you post a link?

Anonymous said...

I was involved in athletics in SA in the mid 80's along with Messrs Daniels and Adams (then still a sports science student prior to US studies)...I am glad to see that the concience they had at the time in the 'struggle' against the status quo, has never left them in the end.

I also left athletics in the time around merger for my own reasons...shall we just say I may be vindicated, because if any role, I would just have been a pawn like my two friends above.


Anonymous said...

You must be congratulated on your clear thinking throughout the issue, especially given some of the pressure from the highest levels that has obviously come your way.

Looking forwards to many more

Paul (London, UK)

Gary Naylor said...

The way this kid has been treated is utterly disgraceful.

On the other hand, this site has been a beacon of probity and sense and I hope you guys get the chance to meet Ms Semenya and talk her through your views.

Please stay with this story as long as possible.

GraemeT said...


Just wanted to compliment you on the clarity of thinking on the issue but at the same time incorporating all the different stakeholders apportioning in my view appropraite positive and negative opinions of their role in the affair.

It is difficult for someone from another country (UK) to fully understand the culture of another and the impact it has on decision making and overall politics but the report gives a good indication of it.

However removing all that context, it just goes to show the difficult position that medical staff can find themselves in. Trained in a highly regulated profession but operating in a very unregulated one. This was also evidenced in the recent case in the UK, with Harlequins Rugby Union and the false blood replacement and the Doctor cutting the player post match, on his request to try and cover up the situation. The doctor could not be investigated under the sport's judiciary but is so now by her own profession, the Britsh Medical Council.

And finally amidst all of this, and must be of the primary concern is a bewildered 18 year old!.

wiggles said...

Given these new revelations and apparent commission of sporting fraud, shouldn't the IAAF revoke her gold medal and re-classify the results? Cheune needs not only to be fired, but banned by the IAAF from representing any country, athlete, team, etc.

DrTim said...

Yes, I concur with the previous posts. You have been doing a fantastic job ... letsrun might the first site you open each day but 'The Science of Sport' is my first!

Keep it up and if you get any more nasty letters from ASA read these comments again to cheer yourself up ;)


Anonymous said...


I enjoy your articles immensely but am a bit perturbed at what you wrote today, or am I misreading your Situation?
You state in your article that you propose that ASA be sanctioned and denied participation in the 2011 world championships. Who are you trying to punish? Because the only ones who will be punished are the athletes themselves. Must the athletes again take the brunt of this mess up or do you want to force our top Youth and Junior athletes to look elsewhere to compete.
ASA heads must be held accountable and pay for what they have done to Caster, it is criminal, but why do the athletes have to suffer!


Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Sharon

I think that the IAAF would be entirely justified doing that, though you're right, the athletes would be punished for the action of their president. However, there's plenty of precedent for this - teams are always suspended for the actions of those in charge. Just look at the sanctions imposed on South Africa for many years, and the athletes who were denied opportunities to perform on the global stages as a result.

However, perhaps I should clarify what I am getting at here.

ASA, as a member of the IAAF, can be sanctioned by that governing body for deliberately fraudulent behaviour (which I certainly think this is). They could very well say that ASA faces those sanctions as a result of its President, and that his continued authority will result in those sanctions being enforced. I think they'd be in their rights to do so. Sanctions, given the level of the lies, would be a fair punishment, I believe. ASA, if their interest was in the athletes, would recognize this and act to remove Leonard Chuene.

Sanctions would be fair - I'm not pushing for that, because yes, it's unfair on the athletes, but ASA must take accountability, and realise that they are collectively responsible, even though it's one man's actions (truth is, there are a good few people involved here).

Harsh, but like I say, there is precedent.


Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

hi again Sharon

Sorry, I just reread my answer to you, and I realised I still didn't get out what I intended.

There is a parallel here with what has just happened in Formula 1 - as you may know, Renault ordered Nelson Piquet Jr to crash during the Singapore GP last year in order to "fix" the race so that Alonso would win it.

The judgment by the FIA was lenient on the team, and its drivers, and the explanation was primarily that Renault had already taken action against its directors, and Flavio Briatore has been removed from his position. Because of that strong stance, by Renault, they have avoided what many were calling for - a more serious punishment.

I think the same should happen here. The president is there only because his constituency allows him to be, and if he's there for political reasons, well, then those sanctions would be appropriate.


Frans Rutten said...

" It's getting ugly" was one of the first comments from either Ross or Jonathan or maybe both.

Up to now I'm still unable to see, how the whole Semenya saga can not be "fabricated" for a larger part.

I can see though, that Semenya, herself, most likely not quite has been able to grasp how her special condition ultimately could give her an alleged so-called "unfair" advantage. Although this isn't yet confirmed.

But for the rest.
Never in history people world wide saw what I call the OBVIOUS.

I still keep focusing on the performance factor, though, but even Griffith-Joyner, the Chinese surge in Stuttgart 1993, weren't as obvious an the Semenya run.

I was so embarassed, that I couldn't watch Semenya finish her race.

Zoe Brain said...

... this site has been a beacon of probity and sense

While I may have had some minor differences over some issues, the unwavering Integrity of the authors here is obvious to all.

If there was a preliminary diagnosis of PAIS of some degree rather than obvious CAIS, then there would be some question as to whether this teenage girl should be allowed to compete or not.

Unfortunately, a sports team doctor alone cannot be expected to be an expert on Intersex conditions. When confronted with AIS of any degree, even CAIS, the conservative position for a non-specialist, especially one normally on the lookout for excess performance-enhancing substances, might have been to withdraw her from competition, regardless of the IAAF rules - which are open to interpretation. How complete does "almost complete" AIS have to be?

This appears to have been what happened in the Asian Games - non-specialists deciding that anyone with 46XY chromosomes couldn't be female under any circumstances - and sticking to that position in order not to lose face.

South Africa has some extremely competent specialists in this area. Were they consulted? It appears that many who would have been most qualified were not.

I know little about sports medicine. If someone intrasexed shows up with 3 times the normal level of testosterone - highly indicative of performance enhancement drug use, but less than the 4 times WADA uses as the limit for a "failed doping test", would that athlete be allowed to compete? Or would they be suspended pending further investigation?

Is the default in doubtful cases to suspend, or allow?

Whatever the usual course of action is, that should have been followed: and both WADA and the IAAF should have been kept fully informed.

Graeme said...


I don't completely agree with your comparison with F1 and Renault as I think there are some contextal issues that need to be considered.

Renault employs drivers (and a myriad of other staff) to compete in F1. These employees can compete in F1 through other organisations particularly in the event of any corporate punishment that Renault receives. They have a choice, within contractual obligations, although I suspect that if their team was banned then they would be free from any such.

The ASA is the organisation, whom through the athletes get to compete at international events. They cannot compete through alternative national athletic organisations (save for being eligible for another country)and thereofore would suffer without doubt from a corporate punishment handed to the ASA. They have no choice.

Where I do agree is if the ASA took similar internal measures as Renault did and the culpable leadership figures left. This would be a smart political move, demonstrating to the external stakeholders such as the IAAF that ASA was attempting to put it "house in order" and not requiring a heavy external discplinary stick to make it do so.
Whether such political smartness exists seems, from your accounts, to be debateable. The SA political figures response will be interesting in this respect especially after there initial "backing to the hilt" stance. Media coverage as ever will alo play an influencing role.

Meanwhile, and what must be of primary concern, is there is a bewildered 18 year athlete amongst all this!

Jamie said...

I think what Ross is suggesting should be along the lines of what happened to the Russian Rowing Federation after they had repeated doping offenses within a short period of time.

In short - a rower was found doping after winning gold in quad in 2006 - a few months later (2007) more athletes were found to be using illegal methods i.e. intravenous drips- the Russian Federation was banned for one year as this was seen to be systematic doping as the team doctor knew about it. Upon appeal FISA reviewed this and said that Russia could compete in the Olympics but that the Executive should be reelected and the previous board thrown out and non of the athletes found doping could compete. This happened and Russia rowed at the Olympics.






Rymill said...

Well said.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Zoe

Good points. My paradigm, coming from SA, is that experts should be involved more often - I've been 'grinding this axe" for a long time, trying to advocate that people must recognize the value of experts.

And that clearly did not happen here. We do have experts - i discovered this very quickly, when I was myself confused about the normal range of testosterone levels. I picked up the phone and within 1 minute had the answer, since proven by about 3 other experts. This kind of information seems to reside in people's heads, it's so basic to them.

Yet time and time again, that kind of expertise was ignored in this case. In the end, the only expert who was ever involved, the medical doctor, was over-ruled. Did he know enough to fully understand the complexities of AIS? I don't know. He may well have, since he would have been on the IAAF committee and therefore privy to the details of their gender verification policy. He would also have had the opportunity to consult, and so it's possible that his expert opinion to Chuene was the result of his discussions with other experts, we don't know that.

To me, the problem is the over-ruling of expertise, and its exclusion, hence the last line of this post.

Couple of other side issues. First, I'm becoming less and less sure that it's AIS. It could be alpha-5-reductase deficiency, or another enzyme deficiency, and I'm not that sure of AIS anymore.

Then second, regarding the drugs test, just important to note that when the doping test for testosterone is done, they don't actually look at the level of testosterone, they look at the ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone. So you can have a testosterone level 10 times the normal amount, but you won't be picked up in the doping test unless the epitestosterone level is four times lower than this. If the ratio is four or higher, then the sample is not positive, but is flagged as suspicious and looked at further, using mass spect to discover whether it contains exogenous testosterone.

Point is, Semenya would have been able to pass all doping controls without suspicion, since her ratio was unaltered, even though her testosterone levels may have been 3 (or more) times higher than the "normal" value (whatever that means).

I'd say in answer to your final question that the default would be to withdraw, though this of course depends what was found in the testing.


Zoe Brain said...

Ross - if the default is to withdraw, then the team doctor's position would be correct.

If the default is not to withdraw, then the team doctor's position might be correct (depending on the medical evidence) but probably is not.


There is no excuse for over-ruling the best medical advice available. Whether correct or not, it should have been followed barring extraordinary circumstances - better medical advice becoming available, or proof of corruption etc.

Now... how can we help the poor girls who's been so dreadfully let down by everyone in this case?

Anonymous said...

Former sport administrator Banele Sindani supports Chuene. I think Chuene will be allowed to stick around for a bit longer..


Support for ASA boss
23 September 2009
Ramatsiyi Moholoa

FOCUS: Caster Semenya

FORMER sport administrator Banele Sindani has come out in support of the embattled Athletics South Africa boss Leonard Chuene following the latter’s confession that he lied about the Caster Semenya gender verification tests.

At the same time, Sindani made it clear he has no intentions of going back to sport, let alone leading ASA should Chuene step down.
The support from Sindani is a major boost for Chuene whose future as president of ASA will be discussed by their council in Johannesburg tomorrow .
Sindani, who is now employed as a charity worker for a church organisation, worked with Chuene as chief executive of ASA until he resigned four years ago.

“Chuene remains my brother and comrade,” said Sindani in response to an article in Sowetan yesterday in which certain quarters in sports said they wanted him back at ASA.

“ I will fight to support Chuene . He and I worked together for a long time in the transformation of athletics in this country.
“That is why we are now seeing more athletes from the villages and townships doing so well.
“I have made a meaningful contribution and I’m happy with it . I’m out of sport now and have no intentions to come back .”
Sowetan has learnt that at tomorrow’s council meeting Chuene is set to meet a challenge by officials from Boland and Eastern Cape Athletics.
Boland is the provincial structure where Wilfred Daniels, who resigned from ASA as high performance coordinator two weeks ago, comes from.
In the Eastern Cape Athletics, Sowetan has learnt that Chuene’s handling of the Semenya affair has divided the structure along racial lines. Blacks have openly supported Chuene.
“Thursday’s meeting will see Africans, Coloureds and Indians on one side and whites on the other with the support of one or two regions in the Western Cape,” said a top sports leader.

Chuene, who enjoys the support of influential politicians and sports leaders, has survived countless attempts to remove him and it remains to be seen if he will also succeed this time round.

Full article:

Alessandra said...

I am intrigued about something that was reported here regarding the fateful ASA meeting concerning the sex test results:


'Chuene also admitted that ASA team doctor Harold Adams advised him on August 13 to withdraw Semenya ***on the basis of the results of those tests,*** but he chose not to do so.

And, while the ASA council meets on Thursday to discuss the matter – and Chuene’s future – three other officials who had the power to withdraw Semenya based on Adams’ advice have spoken out.

The team’s head of delegation, Kakata Maponyane, admitted he was in attendance when Adams advised they withdraw the athlete, but agreed with Chuene they should allow her to run.

Maponyane said on Wednesday that without seeing the test results, they had no reason to withdraw Semenya, despite the advice of Adams – who has been the ASA team doctor for almost two decades and is general practitioner to South African President Jacob Zuma – after it was discovered that Semenya had three times as much testosterone as an average woman.

“I asked Harold why we should withdraw her and he couldn’t give us a reason,” Maponyane said.

“On what basis could we have withdrawn the child? To do such a thing we needed facts and he couldn’t show us the test results.”'
Isn't it weird that they claim Adams didn't show them the test results? How could this be? Are they implying Adams refused to show them the results, even though he had them? On what grounds?

Or are they implying Adams didn't have the actual test analysis pieces of paper with him? (as if this would ever be a problem)

And then there is this:
“I asked Harold why we should withdraw her and he couldn’t give us a reason,” Maponyane said.

Is he suggesting that Adams informed them he had oversaw sex tests on Semenya and, based on these very same results, he had no reason at all to ask them to withdraw her, but was suggesting it anyways? Like, out of the blue?

What?! Did I understand their claim correctly?

Brad the Builder said...

Interesting read, thanks

Anonymous said...

I found this post on a forum online today, after I heard that the 3rd degree episode last night outed Pamela Jelima as intersexed as well. It looks like one of the posters here who questioned Jelimo a week ago or so, could be right in his suspicion.

"An email from Pierre Weiss to the IAAF president published on 3rd degree(a South African programme The subject line read" JUST TO BE AWARE OF, WE MAY HAVE MORE JELIMO'S?"

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Anonymous

Wow, one has to be careful here. Trust me, I saw the name Jelimo in that email as well - it made me do a double take and as a result I went back on the show (which I recorded) and read the email over and over.

So let me clarify exactly what it said:

First, it was NOT sent by Pierre Weiss, it was sent byt he IAAF PR guy, and was an internal email to a group of recipients that included Weiss.

This email was sent at a time when the IAAF were beginning to investigate whether reports of Semenya might warrant further investigation. They came across a website that alledged that Semenya had been tested in SA.

The email was sent with the header "Just to be aware of. We may get some more Jelimo type questions about this one".

That is not proof that she is intersex. Of course, people will read it how they wish to, but I find it very difficult to believe that this heading means she IS intersex.

All it means is that she was questioned. But then most people already suspected that, so to me, nothing new out of this, apart from the confirmation that yes, the IAAF were asked questions about Jelimo.

I think one has to be careful here, because that forum has basically made three or four key mistakes.

It has the sender incorrect, the recipient incorrect, the header incorrect, and the implication incorrect.

Talk about broken telephone...


Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi again Anonymous

Do you happen to have the URL of that forum? I'm quite keen to just set the rumor straight...


Anonymous said...

Thanx for setting the record straight on that one, Ross. I started to get a bit worried after reading this rumor on facebook pages that cater to Semenya fans, as well as that forum in question, here is the link:


Can't wait for your report on the "3rd degree" program.

Anonymous said...

Anon here again, here is also the link to the Caster Semenya Facebook page titled "In Support of Caster Semenya and African Women", I would LOVE for you to go in there and clear things up there too, since they have made a whole thread about it!


Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi anonymous

Thanks for the reply. I'll go on Facebook and see if I can reply to that one.

I'm also hoping to get some time tomorrow to summarize the latest revelations from the 3rd Degree report. I must say, the key bits where the initial email from the IAAF, and the fact that Chuene did in fact first decide to pull her out, and then backtracked and took political advice to let her run.

I think what I will probably do is wait for the ASA council meeting before posting anything further. I'm also trying to get hold of transcripts of the show so that I can post accurately what was said int he press conference.

Hopefully tomorrow...


Alessandra said...

This whole issue is getting very, very political. And I imagine it is only the beginning. Just saw this:


It has also emerged that controversial ASA president Leonard Chuene has allegedly been drawing a salary of R35 000 a month. Board members and the president are elected to their positions and should therefore not earn a salary.

ASA responded to the allegations. “ASA is not in a financial crisis. ASA is a non-profit organisation and any surplus funds arising shall be used for the benefit of athletics in South Africa. Chuene is not earning a salary. He is receiving an allowance in line with the general corporate governance principles. This is a normal practice in companies and other sport formations.”

Nedbank, once one of ASA’s biggest sponsors, has withdrawn from its R17-million-a-year deal with the association for the 2010 season. The sponsorship covered the Nedbank City Marathon and Matha Series in Free State, Gauteng, Limpopo, Eastern Cape, Western Cape and Mpumalanga.

LL said...

Chuene retains presidency... That's pretty messed up folks.


Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

I'm lost for words. It's amazing.

Although, I'll say this much, I half expected it, given how the federation is run, and its history. Remember, these same people said he handled the matter "exceptionally well" less than 2 weeks ago. So it was on the cards.

Doesn't make it any more believable, in any other country, the outcomes would be so different. I'm trying to think about how to approach the latest news in a post, which I should do later today, I hope.

But ASA now deserve everything that comes their way, and I hope it's what they get. It's disgraceful.

Anonymous said...


Zoe Brain said...

Even in Zimbabwe they think this is pretty rank.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Zoe

great post, great link. THank you!

I have been thinking about what to post all day, kind of digesting the latest news, planning what to write.

In the end, all I got was indigestion and so wrote nothing. Maybe tomorrow will be better, but this is a great link. One thing I had thought is that there are few countries where public officials can do what they do in SA and get away with it. Zimbabwe was one that I thought of, but now it seems I'm wrong!


Drac said...

Yes, it's a wonderful piece in the Herald (government mouthpiece in Harare). I've pulled this quote from Conway Tutani's article:

Chuene finally acknowledged that the lying game was up when he came clean on Saturday after being discovered, but he was still not contrite enough by insisting that he had lied in good faith, with good intentions, and would not resign. How can all this sit together and make sense?

There is the herd instinct side. Naturally or instinctively, people within a group close ranks like cattle or buffaloes when they perceive a threat or feel that they are under attack, but let’s not let this become an obsession. By obsessing with or seeing racism where it is not there, we end up being paranoid. This paranoia is symptomatic of an inferiority complex. At the end of the day, we are giving too much respect and credit to racists by displaying an underlying inferiority complex.

Anonymous said...

So How did the meeting of people to discuss Chuene 's fate go. Not very goog HA? Is that why you have indigestion ross?

Anonymous said...

Ya is there any progress guys? Anyone?

Jay Tee said...

Hi Ross, Jonathan,

I'm afraid I missed the 3rd degree episode you mentioned because I was watching South Africa once again self-implode in an important cricket game. I'm particularly irritated because our chances of winning this evening evaporated as Graeme Smith began suffering cramp and was hampered throughout the latter half of his innings. The England captain denied him a runner, as is his prerogative, and the innings petered to a slow disappointing finish.

The thing thats killing me is this is not the first time that this has happened to the South African Cricket team during Smith's tenure. I can remember at least 3 other occasions when South Africa have lost games that they might have won as a result of cramp, once in a world cup and once in a previous champions trophy game.

My question is, when are we going to start learning from our mistakes? I haven't seen a batsman from any other country in the world succumb to cramp, ever. From my limited knowledge of the cramp phenomenon, I understand that cramp is related to fatigue. People don't just cramp at the onset of exercise, they need to cause fatigue in the muscle first. Cramp is often blamed on dehydration, and loss of electrolytes, and this may be part of the problem - but doesn't explain why cramps are localized while dehydration/electrolyte loss should affect the whole body.

The SA cricket team is clearly stuck in the model of treating cramp with increased fluid intake, as drinks were regularly run out to Smith, but this clearly didn't do the job.

My theory is that if cramp is related to fatigue, there are 2 possible solutions to the cramp problem which go hand in hand - 1. lose weight, as carrying less weight would mean that the muscle take longer to fatigue; 2. improve the level of physical conditioning as a player with more muscular endurance should be able to avoid cramp for longer.

It is no secret that despite their recent successes the SA cricket team does not look like a group of international standard athletes. There are a few who are frankly "chubby". I realise that members of the national team and management will probably point to their recent successes as a justification of their fitness regime, but surely a team who is ranked best in the world should be trying all possible means to cement their position. South Africa have failed once again to throw off their tags as chokers in major competitions, surely this is one problem that could be easily overcome with a little expert advise?

Possibly you could do a post on the complexities of cramp to shed some light on the issue?

Anonymous said...

I've found your posts very helpful and intelligent.


Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Jason

You're 100% right. I agree. The cramp issue is something we've covered a lot in the past - maybe it's time to revisit it.

But go here: http://www.sportsscientists.com/2008/01/featured-series-on-science-of-sport.html

And then scroll down the list and you've find a series of articles on cramp.

But you're 100% right, the cramp issue is caused by fatigue, which is why Andrew Strauss was 100% right to deny Smith a runner - maybe Strauss knew something we did not. You can't have a runner when you are too tired to avoid a cramp.

As for the players being unfit, that's a rumor that has certainly been going around, and yes, 5 or 6 of the players look in need of some training. Cricket seems to allow players who are far from highly trained to succeed. History is littered with batsmen and bowlers who are, frankly, not great athletes.

I may do a short post on this in the future.


Anonymous said...

I'm going to post a link to an article on the Semenya scandal I just read, it is so stupid, and absurd, and just plain ignorant that it's difficult even now, 10 min later to stop giggling. So by all means, read it, and laugh....and laugh..and probably cry a little too.


Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Anonymous

Wow, that's incredible. Of all the pieces I've read on this issue, that has got to be the worst one...

Thanks for the link, what an incredible piece. The mind spins at things like this...


Anonymous said...

Hi All,
I have read that piece in allafrica too and I think a lot of the stuff said there make sence. After all people did not consul sociologists and religious experts in all of this. Is she to compete with men then? No? who then should she compete with? She was raised a woman, its not like she did a sex change or anything like that. She is a creation of God and she deserves all the rights that are granted all human beings in this world, including the right to exploit your potential.No wonder the poor girl cried when sh e was told she could't run. After all she is a child of God too just like yu and I and she is not an animal. we need to be more enlightened and spiritual and compasionate.

Anonymous said...

I've been following your commentary - thanks so much for your thoroughness, insight, and clarity about the politics and science behind Caster Semenya's unfortunate and instructive situation... The timeline you provide is especially helpful. I was wondering if you would be able/willing to extend it to clarify what happened after where you left off. I've been trying to reconstruct the story myself from different sources but I'm not sure of the chronology. I'm specifically interested about the different media and public events that have happened throughout. When was Semenya awarded the medal in relation to everything? When was the press conference where IAAF rep Pierre Weiss spoke on behalf of Semenya and other major interviews with her? When was the airport rally in Johannesburg? Etc.
Just fyi, I'm a writer really interested in gender issues and public life and the place of individuality in all that. Caster Semenya is inadvertently the pressure point of so much; I think of her experience and disposition in relation to the unfolding case.
A complete timeline would be amazing and would make this site as authoritative as possible on the case! Thought you might have the knowledge and be interested in posting that.
Thanks very much

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi anonymous

Thanks for the comments. I guess I've kind of left the story for a while - to me, the story ended when ASA were revealed to have lied, and until more information is revealed (maybe by the IAAF in November), I'm rather 'over' the whole matter. But you're right, a timeline would be interesting. However, I don't think I can justify a whole post, because to most people, this issue has been drawn out too much!

But just for your info:

The conference where Pierre Weiss spoke on Semenya's behalf was immediately after her race in Berlin, on 19 August.

The team then arrived back in SA on the Tuesday after that, the 25th (or maybe the 24th, I can't quite recall). That's when the political circus began - at the airport.

There was a spate of media interviews in the the next two weeks, mostly involving Leonard Chuene, Wilf Daniels, and I did the occasional one.

Wilfred Daniels resigned on the first Sunday in September, giving fuel to the media's quest for answers from within ASA.

At that point, the IAAF issued a statement saying that they would no longer comment. I can't recall exactly when that was, but I'd guess the end of August, in that week.

Then, on 12th and 13th September, ASA had a meeting where they gave Chuene a vote of confidence. The media reports continued (just about every day).

The media then discovered the emails, and that is pretty much where the post above came from.

As for Semenya, she hasn't spoken, with the exception of that conference at the airport, and then a function when she returned home to her village. And that's all. I see there is an interview with her in the latest Runners World, but that's all. ASA have kept her from the media through this.


Brad the Builder said...

Interesting read, thanks

JoeGarland said...

July 31, not August.