Mercedes Allen

IAAF Official Wants to Sweep the Caster Semenyas Under the Rug

Filed By Mercedes Allen | September 18, 2009 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Politics, Transgender & Intersex

Sprinter Caster Semenya has been placed on suicide watch in the wake of leaked tests apparently showing evidence of intersexuality as well as the negative press she's received. The news of this has prompted Lord Coe, a vice-president of the IAAF (which oversees the World Championships), to push for mandatory pre-emptive gender testing, to ensure that intersex athletes can be screened out before they arrive at the public stage.

Coe will be discussing this issue with the other IAAF vice-presidents on the federation's advisory board and their recommendations will then be presented to the IAAF Council at its next meeting in November. There is a suggestion also that Coe may travel with Lamine Diack, the IAAF president, on his proposed forthcoming visit to South Africa to resolve the situation in which Semenya now finds herself.

Because it's more humane to dash an athlete's dreams out of sight than to possibly get egg on your face for doing it publicly.

Don't get me wrong, I realize that not all motives to handle something like this quietly are conspiratorial or self-serving. I do, however, question the intent to sweep everything under the rug rather than take an in-depth, fair and scrutinizing look at a serious issue, and develop a more practical policy.

While the people who leaked the intersex findings regarding Caster Semenya to the media failed to indicate which intersex condition is implicated, there are many such conditions which may indicate physical intersexuality, but be essentially negligible when it comes to the question of competitive advantage. Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome can be one such condition in which it could be entirely possible for Semenya to have "three times the amount of testosterone as the average woman" and still have that testosterone barely affect her body and abilities in any way. The problem isn't intersexuality so much as the fact that the so-called pundits are only looking at half the picture.

The International Olympic Committee has fared better, previously reviewing the question of transsexual athletes (a different but related issue) and ruled that transitioned athletes who have had surgery and completed two subsequent years of hormone therapy are physically equal to their new gender. Why then is it so difficult to come to a more rational, balanced policy regarding intersexed athletes?

Until the IAAF can review the question thoroughly and fairly, it risks more tragedies like Semenya's story or that of Santhi Soundarajan, except that they simply propose to play out those tragedies in hiding, where dreams can be dashed, identities can be quashed and families and national sports administrations will be able to discriminate against affected athletes without intersex-aware defenders to come to their aid. The proposed ass-covering changes merely sweep the issue under the rug and leave events such as the World Championships with outdated policies that will not stand the test of time and medical evidence.

Crossposted to DentedBlueMercedes

Leave a comment

We want to know your opinion on this issue! While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of your user account. Please keep in mind that this is our online home; ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | September 19, 2009 7:51 AM

Mercedes, I feel for this woman. She has a lot on her shoulders for anyone, but is is worse, she is rural African.

Please know to say "it is possible" vs "it is" when it comes to sports competition that is gender based?...

Look, think of the widest thing you can imagine, you can drive right through that.

Where does she compete, and with whom? How can it ever be fairly interpreted for a sports record?

I am relieved she is keeping her award and I hope she will have support from her friends and family, but she has always thought of herself as an African girl and to have this made so public is devastating in an African culture. Much prestige comes from motherhood in an African rural culture and that door is now closed to her. She must feel awful and I wish it could have been handled in a manner that would have been more culturally sensitive.

The IAAF already has a policy in place that allows individuals who are CAIS or AIS to compete in the women's division. The IAAF also has a rule that gender investigations should be kept confidential, but I have yet to see them punishing the IAAF officials who did the leaks to the press.

The fact is, all these issues have already been throughly thrashed out in the 1990s, when a more-enlightened IAAF stopped gender-testing and led the charge to force the IOC to stop the testing also.

Lord Coe is being ridiculous with his suggestion that mandatory pre-emptive gender testing be done. This would be a return to the old policy, which was widely detested by many athletes. More to the point, the individual tests are expensive. The total cost of testing thousands of women for major events like world championships or the Olympics was reaching the point where it couldn't be choked by these major sports bodies.

If Lord Coe proposes to shuffle the cost of gender-testing onto the shoulders of each nation sending a team, it will impose a cost burden on smaller developing countries and make it more difficult for them to send teams into international competition. Then we WILL hear an outcry about "unfair."

The IAAF also has a rule that gender investigations should be kept confidential, but I have yet to see them punishing the IAAF officials who did the leaks to the press.

And I doubt you will. After all, what's a South African intersex woman between friends? It's not like she's a "normal" woman and, hell, she's not from a 1st world country or white.

This disgusts me.

I feel for this poor girl. She's been put through hell for no good fucking reason. I've been there, Caster, you just keep on keeping on. This too shall pass.

This was a bright, tallented and charming woman who deserved accolades, not derision. I hope that we take this opportunity to educate the general public, take her in and help her turn this into a positive.

This is our sister. We can not stand by and watch this violent and satanic crucifixion by the media. This is a HUMAN BEING. Every time I read about her, I want to cry.

We need to keep talking about this, and we need to talk loudly, until we get the MSM attention and we can address this: this inhumane treatment and this public hanging is NOT OK! Its sick and horrifying! Let her live!