Athletics SA lashes out at local media

Tuesday, August 25, 2009
By: 
Chris Bathembu

Johannesburg - Athletics South Africa's (ASA) President Leonard Chuene has lambasted local media claiming that the story that questioned Caster Semenya's gender emanated in South Africa and not Australia, as it was earlier claimed.

Mr Chuene, who was addressing the media at OR Tambo International Airport, said it was a local media house that first queried Caster's gender with the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) as early as March.

Struggle veteran Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee President Gedion Sam and Caster's family were among the people who attended the packed media conference.

"I have evidence to that effect that a local media organization approached the IAAF as early as March asking questions about this girl," Mr Chuene said.

The IAAF unleashed a storm after it announced a week ago that it was conducting tests on Caster to determined if she was a girl. This after the 18-year-old from Limpopo became an instant hero by winning a gold medal at the World Championships in Berlin.

Mr Chuene reiterated that ASA was not informed prior to any tests conducted to Caster. "We didn't know, no one protested about the girl and we were not informed of any tests," he said in reply to a question as to why ASA did not stop IAAF from conducting those tests.

Flanked by Mr Chuene and Ms Madikizela-Mandela, Caster sat quietly in the front table and appeared relaxed.

"Semenya is not going to talk today, she will not be accessible to the media at all because she is so traumatised by the hostile media that are trying to ruin her image and her achievement," Mr Chuene said.

He took issue with the fact that no concerns had been raised at previous competitions about Caster's gender.

In an apparent reference to IAAF, Mr Chuene said the only scientists that were to confirm that Caster was a girl were her parents "not the scientists from a stupid university."

The ANC Youth League handed donations of R60 000 to Caster and R40 000 to 800m men's gold medalist Mbulaeni Mulaudzi, and R25 000 to long jump silver medalist Khotso Mokoena.

Ms Madikizela-Mandela also lashed out at the IAAF, saying what they did was an insult to the African continent.

"They can stuff their insults, this is our little girl and nobody is going to perform any test on her," she said.

Caster and the entire team have left the airport for the Presidential Guesthouse where the team is due to be officially congratulated by President Jacob Zuma.

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