It is safe to declare that no South African track athlete
has ever generated as much interest as Caster Mokgadi
Semenya. The 19-year-old Limpopo-born middle-distance
runner showed the world's best a clean pair of heels
when she broke the world 800m record at the World
Championships in Germany last year.
The victory immediately placed her under the international
spotlight, albeit for all the wrong reasons. Questions about
her gender were raised, and the outcome of the humiliating
tests conducted by the International Associations of
Athletics Federations (IAAF) are still not verifi ed.
The IAAF says it had to conduct the tests after she
improved her times by 25 seconds in the 1500m and eight
seconds in the 800m in less than seven months.
"These are the sort of dramatic breakthroughs that usually
arouse suspicion of drug use,� said the IAAF in a statement.
What is sad about this young athlete's traumatic
experience is that 12 months down the line the test results
have still not been released and she remains banned from
competing. Although the IAAF was well within its rights
to conduct tests if deemed necessary, leaked information
to the international media about these suspicions has
brought Semenya untold humiliation and the issue of her
gender was turned into a political spectacle as politicians
sought to raise their profi les at her expense.
Sadly, inquisitions about her gender have been part
and parcel of Caster Semenya's life. More often than not,
she would be taken to the toilet during school races and
asked by teachers to strip. But, despite the fact that her
privacy and human rights have been seriously violated,
Semenya remains optimistic about running in the future
and has hired a legal team to fi ght her case against the
In an interview with YOU magazine, Semenya, who has
been called a hermaphrodite, declared that "God made
me the way I am and I accept myself.� Perhaps everyone
else should too and just let the young girl run her race.
� Phathisani Moyo
Lunch spot: Cappellos, Hatfield, Pretoria