IAAF Won't Confirm or Deny Semenya 'Hermaphrodite' Reports

South Africans are outraged over how their star runner is being treated.

September 11, 2009, 11:45 AM

NAIROBI, Kenya Sept. 11, 2009— -- The results of the gender tests run on South African runner Caster Semenya are in, but the International Association of Athletics Federation refused today to confirm or deny reports that the 18-year-old medal winner belongs to a gender category known as intersex -- in other words, that she may possess both male and female biological features.

Speculation over the results have given rise to media reports using the term "hermaphrodite" -- a label that is falling out of use within the medical community due to its offensive and often inaccurate nature.

The IAAF said in a statement that it won't release the results of its gender tests on Semenya until November.

"We can officially confirm that gender verification test results will be examined by a group of medical experts," the organization said. "No decision on the case will be communicated until the IAAF has had the opportunity to complete this examination."

The controversy over Semenya heated up after the British newspaper the Sun and Australia's Sydney Morning Herald reported that they had received leaks of the test results showing that the runner, who won the 800-meter women's race at the IAAF world championship in Berlin last month, has both male and female sex organs.

The IAAF did not directly respond to the news reports' claims but said they "should not be considered as official statements" by the organization.

South African Sports Minister Makhenkesi Stofile held a press conference today to express his horror at the handling of the whole affair. He insisted Semenya is female and that lack of a womb should not disqualify her from women's competition.

"We think her human rights have been violated and her privacy invaded," Stofile said. "I don't know why she is being subjected to this."

Stofile said that with the world being told that Semenya is intersex -- and specifically that she is a hermaphrodite -- another youngster might be driven to commit suicide, adding: "It can be as bad as that."

Stofile told the news conference he has no doubts about Semenya's gender. "She's a woman, she remains our heroine. We must protect her," he said.

South Africans Angry Over Semenya Hermaphrodite Rumors

Semenya, who has a low voice and whose body ripples with muscles, dropped out of sight today, and was not expected to appear at a race in Pretoria over the weekend, as had been planned.

The runner's father, Jacob, angrily told The Associated Press today that people who insinuate his daughter is not a woman "are sick. They are crazy."

Jacob Semenya said he had not been told anything by the IAAF or Athletics South Africa, the local governing body. "I know nothing," he said.

Earlier this week Caster Semenya was all woman on the cover of the South African magazine YOU.

The publication gave Semenya a glamorous makeover, putting her in a dress, heels and make-up. She also modeled a low-cut sequined top and silver leggings.

"I'd like to dress up more often and wear dresses, but I never get the chance," she told YOU. " I'd also like to learn to do my own make-up."

The magazine feature comes just weeks after the IAAF, world championship in Berlin where Semenya's muscular build, deep voice and tremendous speed caused the organization to ask South African authorities to perform a gender verification test.

Earlier reports claimed that preliminary results show her testosterone level to be three times that of a normal woman. The news of the test was leaked just before Semenya ran the 800-meter race. After handily winning she told reporters, "When I'm racing, I'm thinking about my own race. I'm not thinking about anybody."

Whether Semenya would get to keep her medal if the tests proved she was biologically a man was another controversy. Nick Davies spokesman for the IAAF told ABC News that regardless of the test results Caster Semenya would remain the 2009 800-meter World Champion .

"From the beginning of this case...I have said as IAAF spokesman that there should be no assumption that medals would be stripped or results changed for the obvious reason that this is not a doping case, but a medical one," said Davies. "if she is found to have a condition where excessive amounts of testosterone are being produced then she cannot be blamed for what happened before that fact is confirmed."

Caster Semenya Has Been Silent on the Controversy

There have been cases in the past where an athlete's medal has been stripped for failing a gender verification test. Indian runner Santhi Soundarajan was stripped of a silver medal won at the 2006 Asian Games after failing a gender test contesting her eligibility to participate in the women's competition.

Semenya has refused to wade in on the debate, saying that she knows who she is and wants to focus on her training and her studies at Pretoria University.

She tells YOU that she did the shoot for herself and not to prove a point to naysayers. " I don't give a damn what people say about me" Semenya says. " I like me the way I am and who cares what other people say?"

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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