Caster Semenya Saga Moves On: What is Gender? Commentary by Larry Eder



Caster Semenya on cover of You magazine, after a makeover.

The sad and strange phenomenon of Caster Semenya, the gold medalist for women's 800 meters at the WC 2009 continues. ASA claims to have given Caster a

gender test and a blood test. She was not told that it was a gender test (this was done in July 2009), and as a result the head of SA Performance, Wilfred Daniels has resigned. He noted that he could not stomach lying to Caster about the gender testing. At this time, Mr. Daniels seems like the only person involved in this mess, showing some standards.

It was announced that she has a testosterone level that is three times that of most women. We also heard that the IAAF will have a gender test reviewed done by independent authorities, to combat the accusations of racism that have been run in some global media sources about the actual idea of testing Caster Semenya. The IAAF supported testing should be done in about ten days, per several sources.

I will say it again. The South African federation knew about this, and in the end, Caster Semenya will be left out to dry. That a young teenager's gender is discussed in the general media could have been avoided. This is the ugly part of global sports. They knew that there would be questions, especially after Caster's mercuric rise from a 2:11.93 for 800 meters runner to the best time in the world, and gold medalist for women at 1:55.45, all in less than fourteen months! Possible? It should also be noted that working for the South African Athletics federation is a former major domo of East German athletic training, Dr. Eckert Arbeit. That bit of information is also discussed in the Science of Sports column, referred too later in this blog.

Then, some intelligent sources came forward. Janet Heinonen, the editor of the famed Keeping Track (1993-2005), the newsletter of note for athletics insiders, reminded us that Caster really is not anything new, but the reaction to her is a bit strange. Heinonen questioned whether Semenya, with the heightened testosterone level should be allowed to compete: at least, find a medical reason for Caster's higher than normal testosterone levels. Heinonen also reminded us that, way back in 1993, when the Chinese women set world records from 1,500 meters to 10,000 meters, that there were reports that they were from an area in Northern China where young people with gender miscues were not unusual.

The most complete piece of the Semenya affair, a compilation of all info known, can be sound on the Science of Sports blog ( The piece explains, in great detail, the issues with Caster and the various possible outcomes. None of them are really good for the young person, and that, is and should be the focus of this tragedy.

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