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article imageGender Test Could ‘Damage’ South African Gold Medal Winner

By Christopher Szabo     Aug 21, 2009 in Sports
Demands for a gender test for South African World Athletics 800m champion Mokgadi Caster Semenya have met with calls for caution as well as anger back home. A top sports scientist has also warned of the damage it could do the athlete.
Professor Malcolm Collins of the University of Cape Town’s Research Unit for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine has warned against performing gender tests on Semenya, The Star newspaper said. He explained that there were different reasons for not falling into standard gender types and testing was not to be taken lightly. Collins warned:
You can destroy someone’s life like this.
Collins added:
None of these tests are foolproof, not one of them, and you can cause a lot of damage to the athlete
Collins also warned about the psychological impact of people growing up believing they were one sex, only to find they were the other. He said:
It is terrifying.
Meanwhile, Athletics South Africa (ASA) the national athletics body has reacted angrily to claims that the organisers of the Berlin world championships, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) have asked them to do a gender test, IOL reported. ASA president Leonard Chuene said:
I wanted to know where was this memo sent? We did not receive anything from them.
Chuene has not said what the IAAF’s response to his demands for clarity were, if any.
Meanwhile, the Sowetan newspaper says the fracas has made villagers in Semenya’s home village, Moletje in the northern Limpopo province, angry. Her school principal, Eric Modiba, said:
Caster is a girl and the school has never had doubts about her gender. To top it all, she is straight and has never entertained issues of lesbianism.
Modiba added that Semenya had both male and female friends in and out of school, like any girl.
She used to be a good soccer player, though she was an average pupil in class. That she is a tomboy does not mean that she is a man
The athlete’s best friend, Debra Morolong, also rejected speculation that Semenya might be a man:
People should not mistake her strong voice and her physique for that of a man. She has always been a girl and did everything that girls did.
The Star reported the athlete’s mother was irritated by the claims made about her daughter. Dorcus Semenya said: ”My child is a girl!”
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