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Rio Olympics: Caster Semenya cruises home but gender row refuses to go away

By Ian Herbert

Olympic 800m champion Caster Semenya may have run her last major championships without the testosterone reduction treatment which would weaken her, as athletics' governing body seeks an urgent resolution to one of the most challenging and delicate issues in world sport.

The IAAF is preparing a challenge next July to the Court for Arbitration in Sport's decision that it was unfair to insist that Semenya take steps to limit her testosterone as a result of her innate hyperandrogenism.

The urgency of the need for resolution was revealed on Saturday in an extraordinary conclusion to the 800m, which saw three women who are all thought to have the condition finishing in the gold, silver and bronze medal positions.

The ensuing press conference saw Semenya take on the role of protector of the others, when the three women were asked to state individually whether they had been encouraged by the IAAF, to bring their testosterone levels down. It was significant that none of them dismissed the suggestion.

Bronze medallist Margaret Wambui said: "Let us focus on the performance of today. Let's not focus about the medication." Silver medallist Francine Niyonsaba was struggling for an answer when Semenya intervened to speak for them all.

"Excuse me, my friend," she told the journalist who had put the question. "Tonight is all about performance. We are not here to talk about IAAF and speculations. This s all about the 800m today. So, thank-you."

Semenya's post-race press conference was her first high profile media appearance since she won silver at the London Olympics. The prior characterisation of her as gauche and reticent character had been inaccurate. She launched a staunch defence of the need to consider an athlete's performance, rather than how she looks or sounds.

The IAAF knows the issue is more complicated than that. It appears to have some confidence that it can persuade CAS that establishing a legal testosterone level is appropriate. It recognises the fundamental ethical contradiction in the notion of asking an athlete to manipulate her testosterone levels when that is generally an anti-doping offence.

To the wider world on Saturday night, the final simply revealed Semenya to be an athlete who recorded a new time for a South African and the fastest 800m time in the world across the distance while barely needing to run around the Olympic Stadium track.

Belfast Telegraph

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