Hands off Caster!

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By Clement du Plessis

THE fallout, following the IAAF regulations with regards to female athletes competing in the 400m, 800m, and 1500m that they should lower their testosterone levels to the prescribed IAAF limit, has been met with vehement opposition at home and abroad.

The only deduction to such a rule is those female athletes, with an elevated testosterone level, have an advantage.

An advantage!

Where does one draw the line on an athlete having an advantage?

Czech Jarmila Kratochvílová is a former track and field athlete. She won the 400 metres and 800 metres at the 1983 World Championships.

Is access to superb facilities, nutrition, physiotherapists, psychologists, gymnasiums, sponsorships, and the latest technology (computers and cameras) not an advantage? Ponder and park this argument.

We are all born with different talents in different social and cultural backgrounds.

Caster Semenya is no different, is she?


The IAAF seems to have attacked her (and others) and her gender (intersexed, or at the very least her sex development).

This is public humiliation and victimisation at its best as meted out by the IAAF.

The outrage, globally, is to be commended and applauded.

Caster from Ga-Masehlong, Polokwane is no one’s sacrificial lamb.

Having said this I have not heard or seen a statement of support from the Commission of Gender Equality and other gender organisations such as Sonke and Women’s Empowerment UNDP.

Florence Griffith–Joyner, also known as Flo-Jo, was an American track and field athlete.

And I haven’t heard any noises from the predominantly white LGBT organisations.

Caster needs your support, now!

Girls and boys are endowed differently, sexually, at birth and develop differently growing up.

How many times did we not say ‘she is butch’ or ‘he is effeminate’ based on the development, behaviour, and actions of such a person? Even ridiculed.

The Americans

Caster is being ridiculed by the IAAF.

But let’s come back to an athlete having an advantage. Who are they?

The Americans have access to the most sophisticated laboratories which have assisted their athletes since 1988 following the ‘success’ of the east bloc countries on the athletics track in 1985 and earlier.  The Americans have gone to great lengths to match the east bloc countries on the track and even in gymnastics, using similar methods of ‘success’. Several documentaries have been made recording these practices and consequences. In the case of FloJo, death.  Her world records stand (100m in 10,49 seconds and the 200m in 21,34 seconds).

Marita Koch’s world record in the 400m of 47,60 seconds is way ahead of the nearest Western runner Marie-José Pérec’s time of 48,25 seconds. PICTURE: Getty Images

Ben Johnson was not alone.

Marita Koch (400m) and Jarmila Kratochvílová’s (800m) performances on the track in the mid-1980s stood out like a sore thumb on the world stage.

Their physical appearance ‘butch’ if you like.

Primo Nebiolo 

In spite of the objections raised by the IAAF under its president Primo Nebiolo in 1985, the sport’s governing body did little to address female athletes with raised testosterone levels.

The IAAF’s position on the raised testosterone levels then and now smacks of double standards. Why allow the records of Koch, Griffiths, and Kratochvílová to stand and penalise the likes of Caster who is winning her races because of a strict training programme under Jean Vester?

South Africans know how to train athletes for the world stage.

Ben Johnson won two Olympic bronze medals and an Olympic gold medal, which were later rescinded.

Ask Tannie Ans, too.

Contemptuous tone

And Allan Parrott and Anwar Mentoor who have taken their spouses to great heights in the international ultra-distance races.

And Donovan Wright who won gold in the Comrades on the back of his own training programme.

The only advantage Caster has is her natural talent; a quality possessed by the top athletes around the world.

To curtail her talent with a pill is to denigrate her and others, and mars the sport to no end which in the first place should not have been addressed.

The international sports commentators, too, on the Diamond League, World Championships, and the Olympics, would do well to steer clear of tainting her victories with a contemptuous tone.

(CREDIT: Feature photo by Getty Images) 

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