Only Se­menya has emerged from this saga with any dig­nity

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - ISSUES -

SOUTH Africa has sev­ered diplo­matic re­la­tions with the world and en­voys are to be re­called forth­with. The Cape sea route has been de­clared an ex­clu­sion zone.

It is the big­gest out­break of na­tional hys­te­ria over sport since El Sal­vador in­vaded Hon­duras over who should qual­ify for the 1970 soc­cer World Cup.

The row be­tween South Africa and the In­ter­na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Ath­let­ics Fed­er­a­tions is over the con­tro­versy of whether teen run­ning sen­sa­tion Caster Se­menya is in­deed fe­male.

It ap­pears from the fu­ri­ous re­sponse that by de­mand­ing med­i­cal gen­der ver­i­fi­ca­tion the IAAF has not only in­sulted a flower of South African wom­an­hood but be­smirched na­tional hon­our.

Judg­ing from the del­uge of mar­riage of­fers that greeted Se­menya’s re­turn, it ap­pears that we like our women with six-packs, broad shoul­ders, deep voices, and a per­ma­nent two-day stub­ble.

African Na­tional Congress Youth League leader Julius Malema – pre­dictably ne­glect­ing to load his brain be­fore shoot­ing off his mouth – was quick to blame the en­tire Cau­casian world for the hu­mil­i­a­tion of Se­menya by the IAAF. Who are white peo­ple, he de­manded, to ques- tion the sex of Caster?

Ath­let­ics SA’s pres­i­dent, Leonard Chuene, pro­claimed that ASA would not al­low “Euro­peans to de­scribe and de­fine our chil­dren” and claimed that “white racists” had “tipped off ” the IAAF to the ru­mours about Se­menya’s gen­der.

Win­nie Madik­izela-Man­dela, al­ways ea­ger to puff air into her slowly de­flat­ing pub­lic pro­file, blamed SA me­dia for ru­mours about Se­menya and warned such an abuse of press free­dom could cause the ANC “to take it away”.

It is in it­self an un­think­ing racism and in­grained in­fe­ri­or­ity com­plex that au­to­mat­i­cally sees white racists and Euro­peans as the cause of all Se­menya’s woes. Espe- cially since the lo­cal out­rage has come from peo­ple across the race spec­trum – in­clud­ing the mostly non-black Demo­cratic Al­liance and In­de­pen­dent Democrats.

It ig­nores the fact that the pres­i­dent of the IAAF is Sene­galese and his coun­cil draws mem­bers from ev­ery part of the world, in­clud­ing coun­tries like Qatar, Morocco, In­dia and Kenya, while the med­i­cal com­mit­tee in­cludes a Ja­maican and, um, a South African.

The fin­ger-point­ing at Se­menya has come not only from Rus­sia and Italy but from ath­letic ri­vals like Kenya, Ja­maica, and Ethiopia.

The IAAF did not need to be alerted by racist whiteys about Se­menya’s dif­fi­cul­ties. Her overtly mas­cu­line ap­pear­ance and ex­cep­tional im­prove­ment in per­for­mance have for a while been a mat­ter of spec­u­la­tion in in­ter­na­tional ath­let­ics – a sport­ing code not un­used to some very butch looking women – and she has spo­ken openly of of­ten be­ing mis­taken for a man.

Nor does it help that ASA’s head coach is one Ekkart Ar­beit, for­mer coach to the Com­mu­nist-era East Ger­many ath­let­ics team, which was no­to­ri­ous for il­le­gal steroid use.

Shot­put gold medal­list Heidi Krieger was given so much male hor­mone dur­ing the 1980s that in 1997 she had gen­der re­as­sign­ment surgery to be­come a man, and is now called An­dreas.

Gen­der-test­ing is enor mously com­pli­cated and in­tru­sive, fraught with le­gal and so­cial ram­i­fi­ca­tions that can be crip­pling to the psy­cho­log­i­cal health of an ath­lete. Nev­er­the­less, if there is doubt about an ath­lete, it should be re­solved qui­etly and speed­ily, for every­one’s sake.

It is an in­dict­ment of both the blink­ered ASA and the ham­fisted IAAF that in­stead Se­menya has been ex­posed to such pub­lic hu­mil­i­a­tion. In fact, the only one who has come out of this hor­rid sit­u­a­tion with any dig­nity is Caster Se­menya her­self.

Over the com­ing weeks she is go­ing to need ev­ery bit of per­sonal re­silience and sup­port she can get.

Sup­port the woman, but not like hys­ter­i­cal school­girls.

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