By now, we all know the back story. In fact, the
whole world does.
South African middle distance runner and icon, Mokgadi Caster
Semenya, has been at the centre of controversy ever since her 2009 IAAF World Championship success in which she won her speciality 800m event in Berlin.
Following this achievement, she was then asked to
undergo gender tests after her rapid rise to fame and a leaked report
thereafter divulged that Semenya is “biologically inter-sex”.
This implies that Semenya has a form of
“hyperandrogenism”, meaning that she, through no fault of her own, produces
slightly more testosterone than her female counterparts.
Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) tried to challenge this perceived
unfair advantage on multiple occasions but was eventually challenged by the
Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) who overruled proceedings due to a lack of
evidence that such athletes do indeed possess a greater advantage over their
rivals, and rightly so!
Semenya has battled through embarrassment, ridicule
and public scrutiny over the past seven years, but has risen above this to
realise her ultimate dream of claiming gold in Rio and becoming an immortal
Such a mighty achievement has by default shown the finger to
all her detractors and haters the world over. Following her success, a fellow
rival and competitor from Great Britain (whose name I won’t even dignify by
mentioning it), cried foul and lambasted the relevant authorities for allowing
such athletes to compete, claiming unfairness.
I put it to this sore loser to
show me at least a shred of hard and clinical evidence that Semenya’s condition
provides her with some sort of advantage.
Does it give her a one second
advantage or two, perhaps three? There is absolutely no proof or way of telling
and no way of measuring, thus rendering all hypothetical hypotheses and
personal perceptions null and void. If she has such a great advantage then why
did she get silver in London 2012?
This runner with sour grapes comes from a
country which has 10 times the advantage of all the athletes who finished
ahead of her, in the form of money, which is ultimately what decides the top
medal countries at each Olympics. It is no wonder why first world nations such
as the United States of America and China constantly finish in the top two on
the medals table.
Caster, with limited assistance in terms of funding,
did it on plain old raw, natural talent. Even if she was omitted from the race,
the complainant would have still only have finished in fifth place. Why blame your
shortcomings on another athlete? Oh forgive me, there is a reason ... good
old fashion jealousy!
Semenya is blessed with a God-given gift that others just
cannot handle. It is only because of her success that she has been placed under
the proverbial microscope. If she were to finish in the latter positions,
nobody would even care about gender tests and testosterone. What strikes me is
that the world cannot stand to see an African succeeding, let alone if she is a
Every single top athlete in history was blessed
with some sort of unique DNA and Semenya is no different. Shall we castigate and
vilify Usain Bolt for having longer legs than his rivals or Michael Phelps for
having abnormal webbed feet?
“Let’s chop Bolt in half shall we, to even out the
playing field” ... said no one ever!
Should we call for basketball players to
be shorter? It is the exact same concept with Caster. The only difference is
the skewed perceptions portrayed by the biased few who are too narrow-minded to
see their own ignorance. I find it odd that Russian athletes who openly dope do
not even get half the criticism of a runner who was simply born a certain way.
I implore all haters to take a look at the physical appearance of reigning 800m
world record holder, Jarmila
Kratochvílová, and ask why there was no investigation into her?
Is it because she was from the Europe and thus untouchable? Nobody questioned
Martina Navratilova when she was beating all other women to a pulp on the
What of human rights? Does Semenya not qualify as a
human being who also deserves the dignity and respect of the world? Why pick on
the physical appearance of others and pigeon-hole them into neat little boxes
for your own convenience? Many high profile athletes have condemned the way in
which she has been treated and it's simply uncalled for.
Semenya is a role model for so many little kids and
young adults the world over. The small girl in the township standing in front
of the mirror who feels she is different to the rest, doesn’t feel out of place
anymore and through Semenya’s heroic efforts, feels that she too can make a
difference, be brave, stand tall and be recognised one day. She is a hope and
inspiration to all who may feel out of place in society but dare to dream of
also conquering the world one day.
Semenya has done Polokwane, South Africa, Africa
and indeed the world proud and should be cheered and respected instead of jeered
and rejected. Well done Caster, the nation salutes you. You have done us proud
dear golden girl #HandsOffCaster
Dhirshan Gobind is a respected freelance sports columnist/writer/blogger.
He is a writer for ‘The Sport Freak’, has columns in ‘The Post’, ‘Galaxy News’
and writes regular opinion columns on Sport24. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org