Female Runner’s Gender Questioned


Caster Semenya, winner of the women’s 800 meter final at the Track and Field World championship, is under speculation that she might not be considered a female.  Prompted by high levels of testosterone on a pre-race test, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) mandated a gender test, including a geneticist, endocrinologist, gynecologist and psychologist.  Many of Semenya’s South African countrymen feel the accusations are racist and sexist.

“They’re jealous of my daughter,” Dorcus Semenya, Caster’s mother said. “It’s the first girl in the black people doing such things.  That’s why they say those things.”

Nick Davies, spokesman for the IAAF, disagrees.  “It’s a medical issue.  You’re talking about someone’s life.  She was born, christened and grew up a woman.”  The aim of the tests, he said, was to discover whether anything gave her an unfair advantage.

Results to the sex test will not be available for weeks, perhaps months, because of the complexity of the testing.  According to sportsscientists.com, testing is so complex because of the extensive range of disorders of sexual development (DSDs) in existence.  During the development of gender in a fetus, male sexual development is the default, and after a certain amount of time if it does not begin, the fetus will develop female.  In some cases though, an abnormal effect occurs and even a Y chromosome fails to activate male development, producing an XY female, or an intersex.  Intersex individuals could have the genitalia of a woman, and the physical characteristics of a female, but contain the genotype of a male—creating confusion that can not be solved by allowing “private parts” to be put on display.

The case of Caster Semenya is still unsolved, and whatever the results of the sex test may yield, the controversy has generated much unrest for many South Africans. 

Leonard Chuene, president of Athletics South Africa said, “I’m angry.  I’m fuming.  This girl has been castigated from day one, based one what?  There’s no scientific evidence.  You can’t say somebody’s child is not a girl.  You denounce my child as a boy when she’s a girl?  If you did that to my child, I’d shoot you.”

Alissa Locke, an 800 meter runner for Leesville’s track team, was also upset by the issue. “I don’t know why they (the IAAF) are giving her such a hard time…she won fair and square.”

Even though Semenya ran a record time of one minute, fifty-five seconds, most media has focused on the “mystery” of her gender.  Semenya outraced Janeth Jepkosgei, the defending champion, by 2.45 seconds, and, because of her victory, she is slandered. 

Semenya, however, approaches the accusations differently.  “I see it all as a joke, it doesn’t upset me.” She told You magazine. “God made me the way I am and I accept myself. I am who I am and I’m proud of myself.”


  1. Results to the gender tests have been released by a Sydney newspaper, claiming Semenya has no ovaries and internal testes. The results have not yet been confirmed by the IAAF.


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