Athletics SA admits tests were conducted on Semenya

Monday, September 21, 2009

Pretoria- Leonard Chuene, President of Athletics South Africa (ASA), has admitted that gender tests were conducted on Caster Semenya before she left for the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) world championships in Berlin.

"I can no longer stand before you and say that I am not aware of gender tests conducted on Caster Semenya. I have just recently been made aware that Semenya was sent for tests in Pretoria despite my objections to this," said Chuene on Saturday.

As the President of ASA, he apologised unconditionally for denying that tests had been conducted on her, saying that the association had thought they were acting in the best interests of the athlete.

However, he said he was unapologetic for trying to guard Semenya's privacy and trying to keep the matter confidential. He would also not apologise for allowing to her run despite the IAAF requesting to pull her out of the race.

Over recent weeks Semenya has been the centre of a media furore. Certain media reported that the IAAF wanted to conduct gender tests the 18-year-old when she qualified for and later won the 800m event.

Semenya received a hero's welcome when she arrived back in the country, despite the speculation around her gender. But the celebrations were short-lived as Australian media then claimed that the test results had found that she was inter-sexed.

It then surfaced in the media that ASA was aware of tests being conducted on Semenya before she left for the Berlin championships.

Chuene explained that ASA General Manager, Molatelo Malehopo, had received an email from a member of the IAAF medical commission, Dr Harold Adams. Dr Adams had raised concerns over the gender of Semenya.

Malehopo gave permission for Dr Adams to go ahead with gender tests and agreed to maintain strict confidentiality. He also arranged for Semenya to undergo psychological counselling ahead of the tests, at the instruction of Dr Adams and in the interests of her well-being.

Accompanied by her coach Michael Seme, Semenya underwent the tests on 7 August in Pretoria.

It was six days later, on 13 August, that Dr Adams requested that she be withdrawn from the championships.

Chuene said that if the body had admitted to knowledge of the tests, Semenya's privacy on an extremely sensitive issue would have been compromised and debate and speculation around her gender would have been unfairly fuelled.

He questioned why the IAAF it did not follow the correct procedures and why certain personal information about Semenya had been leaked to the media.

According to Chuene, if there was any suspicion about the gender of an athlete, the IAAF was able to request that they attend a medical evaluation before a panel comprising of a gynaecologist, endocrinologist, psychologist, internal medicine specialists and an expert on gender issues be convened.

He said one individual did not constitute a gender verification panel as is required by the IAAF.

The tests results were not in the possession of the sports body, said Chuene.

He said the denials by ASA were not done out of malice or to deceive the South African public.

"I believe at the time that my consistent denials would help protect her. I have, however, realised that it was an error of judgement and that I could have been more forthcoming with this information," he said.

Despite calls for his resignation, Chuene said that this would be tantamount to running away from his responsibility as head of the organisation.