She’s very, very fast. And she’s very, very fit. But is ‘she’ really a she? And do we have the right to demand an answer to that question?
18 year old Caster Semenya has gone from relative anonymity to being discussed around the world after some lightning fast performances on the track in recent times, and winning the 800m in one minute and 55.45 seconds at the World Championships in Berlin yesterday.
But questions are now being asked about the new world champ – very personal questions that go right to the heart of just who Semenya is.
The International Association of Athletics Federations says it has asked the South African athlete to take a gender test amid fears she should not be able to run as a woman.
Blogs have sprung up unashamedly speculating about Semenya’s physiology. This blogger – who’s also running a poll on the issue – says Semenya should be stripped of her medal if it’s determined that she was not born female, and says “women have a right in sports to compete against other biologically born women because it’s the right thing to do.”
But this commentator believes the story has become ugly, and says questioning an athlete’s gender is more offensive than a doping accusation.
This person raises some interesting questions: “what are the results going to tell us? What would they mean? If Semenya is intersexed, should she compete as a man or a woman?”
WHYS also has some questions to add: many female athletes have higher levels of testosterone anyway, so where is the cut-off point for what is an acceptable ‘natural advantage’? Is it fair that Semenya is being asked to undergo gender testing? In sports which reward speed, size and strength - traditionally male attributes – is it any wonder that some female athletes don’t look like some people’s ideal of a female body type? And if Castor is indeed intersexed, how much of an advantage would that actually bring?