Govt calls on sports bodies to respect Semenya's rights

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Cape Town - Government has called on sports bodies to ensure that the 18-year-old gold medallist Caster Semenya's rights are respected.

"Cabinet calls on the sports bodies to do all in their power to ensure that Semenya's rights are respected and that she and her family are provided with all the necessary support during this difficult time," said Government Spokesperson Themba Maseko, on Thursday.

Birefing the media on Cabinet's ordinary meeting, Maseko said Cabinet was disappointment with the manner in which the issue was handled by the sports bodies.

Limpopo's 18-year-old Semenya won the women's 800 metres at the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) World Championships in Berlin, in August, but media reports questioning her gender overshadowed her victory.

Australian media then claimed that the test results had found that she was inter-sexed.

Athletics South Africa (ASA) President, Leonard Chuene, at the weekend admitted that the body had known about the IAAF's concerns about her gender and had requested gender tests to be conducted.

These tests, which were conducted before she left for the Berlin championships, resulted in calls for ASA to withdraw her from the competition.

When asked whether Cabinet felt Chuene should be fired after admitting to lying about his knowledge of the gender tests, Maseko said: "The sports body must be given a chance to deal with the matter. We think that they will make the right decision."

He said Cabinet did not feel that it needed to take a firm position on the matter.

Deputy Minister of Sport and Recreation Gert Oosthuizen said the department was convinced that the perpetual denial of the knowledge of the tests had fuelled the continuous violation of Semenya's rights and dignity, by foreign and some local media.

"We do not agree with Chuene's insistence that he lied in Semenya's interest, in fact we are of the view that his lies were to Semenya's detriment."

The ASA council is set to meet in Johannesburg at 10am on Thursday to discuss the matter, as well as Chuene's future as the head of the Board.