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Semenya tests secret

The results of a gender test performed on Caster Semenya will be kept confidential, the Department of Sport and Recreation said on Thursday.

“We have agreed with the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) that whatever scientific tests… will be treated as a confidential matter between patient and doctor,” the department said in a statement.

“As such there will be no public announcement of what the panel of scientists has found,” it said. “We urge all South Africans and other people to respect this professional, ethical and moral way of doing things.”

Semenya won the women’s 800 metres at the World Track and Field Championship in Berlin in August. However her gender was called into question with claims that her physique, deep voice and powerful running style were typical of a man.

The IAAF conducted a gender test on Semenya in Germany, to the criticism of the then Athletics South Africa (ASA) president Leonard Chuene, and local politicians who accused the IAAF of racism, sexism, Eurocentricity and colonialism. Chuene later admitted that ASA had conducted its own gender test before Semenya left for Germany. Both he and Athletics South Africa have since been suspended by SASCOC, South Africa’s Olympic governing body, over the saga.

In September, an Australian newspaper reported an as yet unconfirmed leak that the IAAF had found Semenya was a hermaphrodite. Semenya was reportedly “devastated” about the article.

The IAAF had described Semenya’s treatment as “deeply regrettable”, the Department of Sport and Recreation said in its statement. “The IAAF is adamant that the public discourse did not originate with them,” the department said. “We also cannot prove the contrary. It is our considered view that this chapter of blame apportioning must now be closed.”

The department said that, after deliberations with the IAAF and Semenya’s lawyers, it was decided that the runner was blameless in the controversy surrounding her and should keep the prizes she won in Berlin. “Because Caster has been found to be innocent of any wrong, she will then retain her gold medal, retain her title of 800m world champion, retain her prize money,” the department said.

The department criticised the ASA under Chuene and endorsed SASCOC’s actions. It said it had spoken to involved parties from the start, despite many challenges.

“This [discussion] was not easy given the sensitivity of the issues as well as the distance between us and the sport bodies. The IAAF is in Europe; ASA is in South Africa but were harder to get the facts from,” the department said.

“Perhaps SASCOC was better in getting closer to the truth, because they started the quest for the truth later than all of us.”

Earlier this month SASCOC took over the administration of ASA after suspending Chuene and the board. SASCOC board member and veteran cricket administrator Ray Mali stepped into oversee the running of athletics and a new board is to be set to be elected in Johannesburg over the weekend.