That’s no lady, that’s South Africa’s new ath­let­ics sen­sa­tion

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - ISSUES -

WE ARE in the mid­dle of the great­est sport­ing scan­dal in South African his­tory.

It’s greater than Zola Budd trip­ping Mary Dekker “on pur­pose”, uglier than Jo­han le Roux bit­ing Sean Fitz­patrick’s ear, more sen­sa­tional than Han­sie Cronje tak­ing money from In­dian book­ies.

Yes, Caster Se­menya, our 800m phe­nom­e­non, is a man.

That’s what cer­tain sec­tions of the over­seas me­dia would have us be­lieve, at any rate. And if that wasn’t enough, just about ev­ery one of the fan­cied ath­letes Se­menya left in her dust in Berlin on Wed­nes­day night think so too – and they’re not minc­ing their words.

It’s taken sour grapes to a brand­new level.

I grant you, it’ll be a cold day in hell be­fore Se­menya makes a run for Miss SA, but if looks alone were grounds for the gen­der-test­ing she is about to un­dergo, then Su­san Boyle would have to be a con­tender.

The Scot­tish song­bird who took the world by storm af­ter ap­pear­ing on the re­al­ity show Bri­tain’s Got Tal­ent has to be one of the most man­nish-looking women yet to hit the head­lines.

And what about some of the UK’s se­nior politi­cians or po­lit­i­cal leaders in the US and Ger­many?

We’ve all got mas­cu­line-looking women in our so­ci­eties, just like we’ve got fey-looking men. The dif­fer­ence is no one sug­gests they should go for gen­der-test­ing, even though I dare­say many have more balls than their male coun­ter­parts.

What about the ar­gu­ment that Se­menya se­cretly un­der­went some kind of sin­is­ter gen­der meta­mor­pho­sis, much like the East Ger­mans did in the dark days of the Cold War?

You’ve seen the fa­mous pic­tures of the be­he­moth East Ger­man shot put­ters, all of whom would have made Bakkies Botha look pos­i­tively sylph-like.

The prob­lem is, it’s wish­ful think­ing. There have been many times I have prayed that we could have Stasi-like cen­tres for sport­ing ex­cel­lence – the ones that iden­tify the tal­ented, swoop down and re­move them at an early age to spe­cialised acad­e­mies where they are fed the best food and steroids and trained for hours un­til they are turned out as teenage su­per­heroes.

We might call Schalk Burger the In­cred­i­ble Hulk but in truth, though, the clos­est we came was Kamp Staal­draad, which was an outand-out dis­as­ter; all we man­aged to achieve was Corné Krige lead­ing a team of clue­less bul­lies to their nadir at Twick­en­ham.

As for sur­gi­cal pro­ce­dures, come on; Se­menya is an or­di­nary South African who uses state med­i­cal care.

Are th­ese hos­pi­tals which strug­gle to roll out ARVs to peo­ple liv­ing with HIV and Aids sud­denly go­ing to have a spe­cial gen­der unit turn­ing out sport­ing prodi­gies?

The best one, though, is this in­sis­tence on gen­der-test­ing.

Ol­o­gists of all kinds – psy­cho, sex­ual and ev­ery­thing in be­tween – will put this poor woman through weeks of test­ing to make sure she’s ac­tu­ally fe­male.

Back in the stone age when I was at school, there was this silly lit­tle joke: How do you tell the sex of a chro­mo­some, was the ques­tion. Pull down its jeans (genes), was the an­swer, to glee and mer­ri­ment.

Part of me won­ders whether the chro­mo­somes didn’t get lost in the jeans this week.

At a time when we should be cel­e­brat­ing this young woman’s in­cred­i­ble ath­leti­cism, the whole thing has be­come sul­lied in the most in­cred­i­bly ugly spat over whether she’s fem­i­nine or not.

Why didn’t fe­male ath­let­ics of­fi­cials just take her into the chang­ing room and check for them­selves?

It’s not that dif­fi­cult. Surely the an­swer is ei­ther one or the other, or am I miss­ing some­thing?

Per­haps I am. Af­ter all, it was an Aus­tralian jour­nal­ist who ap­par­ently blew the whis­tle in the first place.

In terms of his logic, we should call for the Wal­la­bies to be gen­dertested the next time they come over. They did play like a bunch of girls the last time they were here.

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