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No Diack for SA?

IAAF president Lamine Diack has cancelled a planned trip to South Africa to discuss the results of Caster Semenya’s gender verification test with the athlete and government representatives, according to a report in a British newspaper website.

The┬á International Association of Athletics Federations president had made plans to meet with the South African government this weekend amid continued claim and counter-claim over the controversy surrounding the athlete’s gender that followed her 800m victory at the World Championships in Berlin in August.

Instead, reports the Guardian website, Diack will travel to a sports industry conference in the Russian city of Kazan. It is understood that he has not ruled out travelling to South Africa next month and still hopes to sit down with Semenya and her representatives to reach some conclusions before the IAAF Council meets in Monaco on 20 November.

The ANC, the ruling party in South Africa, earlier this week renewed its demands for an apology from Diack while a committee set up to look into the affair said the IAAF results should be declared “null and void” because it had not followed its own procedures. “The country is being undermined. Our view is that if Caster was an athlete from a developed country, we would not be where we are,” said an ANC spokesman earlier this week.

A report on the News 24 website said that IAAF insiders had hoped the admission from Leonard Chuene, the president of Athletics South Africa, that he had lied about whether a gender test had been carried out on Semenya prior to the Championships in Berlin would help quell the febrile atmosphere in the country. But the fault lines have been redrawn in recent days. Chuene, who in the immediate aftermath of the issue becoming headline news around the world accused the IAAF of “racism, pure and simple”, has retained the support of the South African sports minister. Some South African officials have insisted that Diack be forced to apologise before entering the country.

Diack has vowed to disregard the latest wave of criticism as he seeks to find a way forward. One option being discussed is the possibility of brokering a meeting with government officials representing Semenya on neutral ground.

That could see IAAF and the South African government each nominating members for a panel of experts that could gather in another African city, such as Dakar in Diack’s native Senegal, to examine the available evidence and discuss a way forward.

The IAAF has yet to see the results of any tests carried out by Athletics South Africa or make public the results of its own tests. Leaked reports have repeatedly suggested that they show Semenya has levels of testosterone three times higher than normal. IAAF insiders insist that the welfare of the athlete remains their paramount concern.

It is understood to be highly unlikely that Semenya, who is supposed to be sitting sports science exams at the University of Pretoria, will be stripped of her gold medal. An IAAF meeting in November will discuss plans for a wholesale review of its guidelines on gender verification, which were last updated in 2003.