Virginia Wheeler and Harry Haydon, Sun (London), September 10, 2009
South Africa reacted angrily today to world champion runner Caster Semenya’s test results that found she was a hermaphrodite–and threatened a “third world war” over the affair.
Gold-medallist Semenya, 18, has both male and female organs, it was claimed yesterday.
And sources close to the International Association of Athletics Federations–who ordered extensive tests on the teen after her amazing 800m win at the World Athletics Championships last month–say the results mean she could still be stripped of her medal.
Semenya is claimed to have NO womb or ovaries–and has internal testes, the male sexual organs which produce testosterone.
The row over Semenya’s biology has caused huge divisions–with South African politicians calling slurs she is a man “racist and sexist.”
Her birth certificate has the teen listed as female and urine tests showed that, despite her having higher than average male hormone levels, they are within the official limits for a woman.
And today the country’s sports minister Makhenkesi Stofile said: “I think it would be the third world war. We will go to the highest levels in contesting such a decision.
“I think it would be totally unfair and totally unjust.”
President Jacob Zuma also hit back saying: “I don’t know why we should not respect the privilege between the doctor and the patient.
“Why, when the tests have been done, why was it published?”
An IAAF source was quoted yesterday as saying: “There certainly is evidence now that Semenya is a hermaphrodite.
“But the trouble is the IAAF now have the whole ANC and the whole of South Africa on their backs.
“Everything is going to have to be done absolutely by the book, no question of a challenge to our findings.
“There’s all sorts of scans you do. This is why it’s complicated.
“In the past you used to do a gynaecological exam, blood test, chromosome test, whatever.
“That’s why the findings were challenged, because it’s not quite so simple.
“So what they do now is they do everything, and then they can say look, not only has she got this, she’s got that and the other.
“The problem for us is to avoid it being an issue now which is very personal: of the organs being a hermaphrodite, of not being a ‘real’ woman.
“It’s very dramatic.”
IAAF spokesman Nick Davies was not immediately available to comment on the story.
The organisation confirmed that it had received the test results back and was processing the data.
Semenya was ordered to take tests straight after her 800 metres gold at the World Championships in Berlin.
The athlete received a heroine’s welcome when she arrived back home in South Africa following the backlash.
And Semenya’s family have slammed the claims, saying: “It is God who made her look that way but she IS a girl.”
The runner was last week given a make-over by YOU magazine–and called the row over her gender “a joke” as she posed in make-up and a dress.
South Africa’s athletics chiefs said they stood by her amid the claims.
Athletics South Africa president Leonard Chuene said the organisation would advise the teenager to ignore all media speculation until she had been officially informed of the results of the tests.
He said: “We are ignoring these claims. We cannot comment on them as we know nothing about them.
“We will wait for the due process to be followed. The authorities have made a statement to say we will be informed about the results and we await that development.
“We cannot get involved in gossip of this sort. Our people will speak to Caster this evening and ensure that she puts these rumours from her mind.
“She is at university at the moment. She must concentrate on her studies.
“We stand fully behind her as our athlete.”
Semenya’s family also angrily disputed the claims.
The athlete’s uncle Lesiba Rammabi, 51, said her relatives were ‘very humiliated’ by the reports.
He said: “I believe Caster is normal, inside and out.
“What does it matter whether she can have babies or not? Many people cannot have children, why else do parents adopt? Are those women not women also?
“We are a normal family who looked at a child when she was born, saw that she was a girl and raised her as any other family would do. Are we now being told that we are wrong?
“We are very humiliated by what has been said and do not understand how it can be true.
“This is a woman who was raised a female. She will always be female, no matter what people say.”