Ah yes; I recall even as a kid 12,000 miles away that a feeling within me always wanted Steve Ovett to thrash the pants off Sebastian Coe whenever they raced. And now it’s clear I backed the right horse, because the almost relish with which Coe as head of the IAAF announced that Caster Semenya would now be forced into taking testosterone-busting drugs like birth control pills or prostate cancer drugs in order to keep competing has just reinforced to me what a smug so n’so the embittered Baron is.
Make no mistake, the Semenya decision was ninety-nine percent Coe’s doing. I hope Semenya somehow sues the IAAF for every single penny in every single bank account they have and bankrupts them and Coe both. Because it’s just about the worst case of discrimination and human rights abuses in roughly forty years of being a student of sport I have come across. On every single level you care to name the decision is completely abhorrent and unjust. It is an affront to human dignity and an unintended middle finger to the nation of South Africa. It was moreover an edict straight from the Dark Ages.
Not to mention it has the horrible stench of racism and cultural superiority wafting from it. A type of sporting colonialism. Would the same punishment have been burdened on to a blonde British double-gold medal winning female? And in fact, was British Olympic 800 metre double-gold medal winner Dame Kelly Holmes ever tested for abnormal testosterone levels? I seem to recall her thrashing her rivals fairly conclusively with no eyebrows raised from anyone at the IAAF (The International Athletics Federation).
The tearful blub from the British athlete Lynsey Sharp after the Rio 800 metre final was the beginning of the end for Caster Semenya. As hard on other competitors as it might seem, sports history is littered with examples where a freakish abnormality or physical quirk of the human body has procured to its beholder a so-called unfair advantage.
Our Athletic Great, John Walker was known to have an abnormally large lung capacity. Did the IAAF or the IOC ever instruct him to undergo a surgical procedure to reduce this? Has the International Tennis Federation ever told Serena Williams to take drugs to reduce her male-like muscle mass? Did Swimming’s World Body ever consider banning Michael Phelps for having the extreme example of the perfect body for a swimmer: a longer trunk/torso region in tandem with shorter legs and an abnormally long arm span? Never in a trillion years.
Caster Semenya was born (note that word) an unusual female- one with a very uncommonly high amount of hyperandrogenism in her body, which basically equates to having a much higher level of testosterone for females. In effect the IAAF are penalising her for having a naturally occurring, if highly rare, chemical in her body. Where is the difference in the argument with the athletes mentioned just before? All I can see is vilification from the IAAF for her ‘crime’ of being a champion athlete; of dedicating herself to years of sacrifice and hard training to get to where she is.
I’ve practically never felt angrier or more aghast about any top-level decision taken by a sporting body in my life. Just as well that Semenya seems to be very fortified of mind. A lesser person would struggle to cope, and may in fact be pushed to the brink of ending it, and I’m not just talking about their vocation here, either. The IAAF are playing an extremely dangerous and heinous game in requesting an athlete to put drugs in their system that will alter their natural physiology and could endanger their health, in order to keep competing. How pathetically and horridly ironic that is. Drug dispensing from the IAAF. Who are they? God?
Paul Montague (firstname.lastname@example.org)