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Caster: SA deserves the truth

2009-10-29 14:03
Caster Semenya (File)
Johannesburg - The government must "extract the truth" on the Caster Semenya matter from Athletics South Africa, the ANC said on Thursday.

"We also encourage our Minister (Sports Minister, Makhenkhesi Stofile) to institute a mechanism of extracting the truth from ASA regarding their role in the Caster debacle. Both in South Africa and in Berlin," said ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu.

"South Africa deserves nothing else but the truth, Mthembu told a media briefing on the findings of a task team probing the matter.

"... (The government may) use any legal instruments to extract the truth from ASA," he said.

Last month, ASA president Leonard Chuene admitted lying to the South African public about not having any knowledge of gender tests conducted on Semenya in Pretoria in August.

He said that ASA's deception on the matter was intended to protect Semenya's confidentiality.

"I now realise that it was an error of judgement and I would like to apologise unconditionally," he said.

However, briefing the National Assembly's sport and recreation committee on October 20, he denied lying about not having any knowledge of gender tests.

"We learnt from the past that we were called liars even if we have put everything on paper. But they said 'you lied'. I don't understand."

Mthembu said it was difficult to trust anything emerging from the ASA.

Task team member Winnie Madikizela-Mandela said: "I don't think any of us here would appreciate being lied to... when a respectable body lies through their teeth... and then they justify their lies saying they were trying to protect Caster." This made it untrustworthy.

Mthembu said the task team would hand over the matter to the sports ministry for further investigation.

"We think they are better placed as government... to pursue the matter," he said.

The party would hand over the "volumes" of information it had gathered in its probe, which included interviews with the ASA, Semenya herself and other professionals.

"Throughout these consultations, the ANC's position about Athletics South Africa has not changed, in fact we are more convinced that ASA and their doctor have a case to answer.

"In this instance, in relation to the Caster issue, they performed dismally."

When asked whether the ASA board should be dissolved, Mthembu responded: "You can't be targeting an individual on the sins of the entire board."

At an ASA special general meeting last month, its leadership was given a unanimous vote of confidence.

Mthembu expressed hope that the board would concede it had "messed up" and take the appropriate action.

"When the board came out with nothing... they disappointed us. They came out of that meeting as if nothing had happened... as if they had not brought disrepute... through lying to the president of the country... to all of us.

"They might decide on their own to do something. They must take the President (Jacob Zuma) into their confidence... they must take the nation into their confidence," he said.

Madikizela-Mandela said Semenya seemed to be in a position to "deal with the situation", referring to the 18-year-old's emotional state.

"When we met her... she was extremely relaxed and very happy and seems to have found her own way of dealing with this quagmire," she said.

Mthembu revealed that the Semenya family was also considering taking legal action.

"We will continue to support her even if they [the Semenya family], which is very probable, take on those who violated their kid... and if they so decide we will be there.

"... To be 18 and be subjected to such and still smile... she (Semenya) is an amazing character," Mthembu said.

Semenya won the 800 metres in a time of 1:55.45 in Berlin on August 19.

However, the significant improvement in her time, her masculine physique and deep voice, brought her gender into question.

In September, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) ordered gender tests on Semenya.

Australian media reports quoting leaked documents later suggested that it had been found that the athlete had no ovaries or uterus, but internal testes which produced testosterone.

The IAAF said it was reviewing the results and would decide next month whether Semenya could continue competing in women's events.

IAAF president Lamine Diack recently cancelled a meeting with Sport Minister Makhenkhesi Stofile to find a resolution to the matter, Mthembu said this meeting had been rescheduled.

The ANC has called on the IAAF to declare null and void the gender verification results conducted both in South Africa and in Berlin.

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