IOC lament Semenya saga

2009-09-11 22:25

London - The president of the International Olympic Committee wishes the investigation into South African runner Caster Semenya's gender could be handled with more anonymity and discretion.

IOC president Jacques Rogge said the case could have serious psychological repercussions on the 18-year-old Semenya, who won the women's 800 meters at last month's world championships in Berlin.

"This is something that touches the very soul of the individual," Rogge told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

"The psychological but also social consequences are really tremendous. This is something that preferably should be handled discreetly if you have the time to do that."

The International Association of Athletics Federations is reviewing the results of gender tests on Semenya to determine her eligibility for women's events.

"Ideally, and this is not a criticism to anyone, such a case would be dealt with in anonymity as much as possible," Rogge said. "But I understand this is a process that was done over a very short period."

Semenya's gender came under scrutiny as a result of her stunning improvements in her 800-meter times and her muscular build and deep voice. Coming into the world championships as a relative unknown, she beat the rest of the field by a huge margin in the 800 final.

"If the IAAF could have had enough time, they would probably have been able to take a decision before the world championships," Rogge said. "This obviously was not possible because the results were not known."

Rogge spoke a day before Australian newspapers reported Friday that medical checks indicated that Semenya has no ovaries, but rather has internal male testes, which are producing large amounts of testosterone.

The IAAF did not confirm or deny the reports, saying that medical experts were reviewing the test results and a final decision would be made at its council meeting in Monaco on Nov. 20-21.

"It's a very difficult issue," Rogge said. "On one hand there are so many different forms of normality in the human body and the human chemistry. You have all kinds of possibilities there. And it is very difficult to have the unanimous advice of various experts. It's not a clear-cut discussion."

The investigation could lead the IAAF to bar Semenya from future women's competition. At 18, she would be a prime candidate to compete in the 2012 London Olympics, but Rogge said that will be up to the IAAF.

"If the results indicate that she is considered as being of the female gender, we will hear about that from the media, but for us it's not an issue," Rogge said. "If it is the contrary, she will not be eligible any more for women's races. Automatically she will not be selected and qualified. This is not something the IOC will have to make a decision on. It's purely the IAAF."

The IOC used to carry out mandatory gender exams at the Olympics, but they were dropped before the 2000 Sydney Games because the screening process - chromosome testing - was deemed unscientific and unethical. The IOC now has a special medical panel on site at the games that can intervene if necessary.