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Gender tests on South African gold medallist sprinter Caster Semenya

PinkNews Staff Writer August 19, 2009

South African sprinter Caster Semenya might have won the 800m in 1min 55.45sec but all eyes are now on whether she is indeed a woman.

Since she arrived at the Berlin Athletics contest there were rumours that her apparent facial hair and rather masculine appearance might actually be because she is a man.

Indeed the rumours have become so intense that the International Association of Athletics Federations have asked Athletics South Africa (ASA) to carry out a “gender verification” test on her.

IAAF spokesman Nick Davies said: “this type of thing will take months to complete, there are a battery of tests to do. It’s very complicated, you need a panel of scientists to debate the result of the test. It’s a serious issue.

He added “It’s someone’s life, she was born and grew up a woman and so if you’re going to now say you’re not a woman, you’re a man, you have to be sure of what you’re doing.”

IAAF General secretary Pierre Weiss said: “At the moment there is no proof. The benefit of the doubt has to be with the athlete.

“But if at the end it is proven [she’s not a woman] then the medal will be withdrawn.”

However, the South African Athletics Federation say they’re “completely sure” that Semenya is a woman. “We would not have entered her in the female competition if we had any doubts,” they said in a statement.

A group of doctors including an endocrinologist, a gynaecologist, an internal medicine expert, as well as gender experts will begin a testing procedure. The IAFF admit that if the athlete was always told she was a woman but is not then she would not necessarily have cheated.

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