RBR Ombudsman: Update on Caster Semenya Case: Facts from Fiction, by Larry Eder



Caster Semenya, WC 2009, photo by PhotoRun.net.

In this world of blogging, where all want to know everything in the stroke of a clock, mistakes are made. I am writing this column to separate the facts from the fiction in the Caster Semenya debacle. I made a mistake in an earlier article and am correcting it with this blog (I will also repost the earlier column and correct the matters of fact in that article as well.)

Recently, I wrote a piece on runblogrun.com, which was also posted on InsidetheGames.biz, about the Sad Case of Caster Semenya. Observant reader and noted track statistician Tom Casacky found some errors in what I had wrote, and I wanted to insure that they are corrected:

1.) I wrote: In July 2009, Caster ran 1:56.72, decimating the world junior women's record for 800m. Last week, Caster ran 1:55.45, another world junior record, to take gold in the World Championships.

In fact, the world junior record was held then, and is held today, by Pamela Jelimo, at 1:54.01, who ran that race in 2008 at the Berlin ISATF meeting. That was Pamela's sixth rewriting of the world junior record. My apologies to Pamela and her brilliant running!

2.) Caster Semenya, with her 1:56.72, had run the fastest time, up until then, in the world for 2009, for a junior or an open athlete. Her 1:55.45 was not the world junior record either, but a very fast time and an incredible improvement for such an unknown athlete. Her improvements from 2:11 to 2:04, to 1:56.72 to 1:55.45 are still, without the junior record name by them, amazing improvements in such a short period of time.

3.) Some additional notes on Stella Walsh, the 1932 Olympic champion. Stella, in fact, did have XX and XY chromosomes ( Gazeta Wyborcza 190, 14 August 2004). So, while she had gender abnormalities (in her autopsy, she was found to have both male and female sex genetalia), she was not, under any circumstances, 'alpha male', to use a term suggested by one observant reader. A recent article noted that there are 46 noted gender abnormalities and that one in 3,000 humans have some type of gender abnormality.

In researching the Caster Semenya case, there are 641 articles on google.com as of 6;30 P.M., Wednesday, September 16, 2009. Here is the link for those so inclined:

4.) I had suggested, but wanted to make sure that RBR is encouraged by Lamine Diack and his attempts to try and do the gender testing with some discretion. Unfortunately, this far into the game, the story has taken on a life of itself, so not even the President of the I.A.A.F. can turn back time.

I have made these corrections in the original article and apologize for the errors. I thank Tom Casacky, noted statistician, and thank him for taking the ombudsman role for runblogrun today.

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