Tuesday, Dec. 08, 2009

Categorizing Caster Semenya

For track stars, winning a gold medal means you've reached the pinnacle of your profession. But for South African sprinter Caster Semenya, it's been awfully lonely at the top. At the World Championships in Berlin in August, Semenya blazed past the field to capture the 800-m title in a lightning-quick 1:55.45, trouncing her closest competitor by more than two seconds. But instead of cementing the 18-year-old's status as track's newest star, Semenya's sprint drew attention mainly to her muscled, masculine physique — and touched off a heated controversy over whether she was running in the right race. "These kind of people should not run with us," said Italy's Elisa Cusma. "For me, she is not a woman. She is a man." The International Association of Athletics Federations admitted that Semenya had been forced to submit to gender testing the day of the race, though it declined to confirm reports in an Australian paper that the sprinter has both male and female genitalia. The organization has yet to determine whether Semenya will be permitted to keep her medal or continue racing as a woman, though South Africa's Sports Ministry declared on Nov. 19 that the young star would not be forced to relinquish her prize.