Semenya receiving counselling

2009-09-13 12:52
Caster Semenya (File)

Caster Semenya (File)

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Cape Town - South African runner Caster Semenya  is receiving trauma counselling in the wake of claims that gender tests have shown she is a intersex, according to the guardian.co.uk website.

Semenya, 18, won the women's 800m at the World Championships in Berlin last month. But her masculine build raised questions about her gender and tests after the race showed her testosterone levels sharply exceeded the average for a woman.

As Semenya withdrew from a 4km cross-country race in Pretoria on Saturday, Athletics South Africa spokeswoman Phiwe Mlangeni-Tsholetsane confirmed the athlete was receiving counselling but denied a report that she is suicidal. Mlangeni-Tsholetsane said: "She has not mentioned suicide. She is an extremely strong and determined young woman. But the past few days have been extremely difficult.''

South African athletics officials met for a second day on Saturday to discuss the controversy and said they would make a statement on Sunday. International athletics officials have said their verdict will be delivered at the end of November but that the world champion is unlikely to be stripped of her Berlin medal.

On Thursday, Australian media claimed to have obtained leaked details of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) tests. The Sydney Daily Telegraph said these showed that the 800m world champion has a chromosomal abnormality that means she has no womb or ovaries but internal testes that produce the male hormone, testosterone.

Mlangeni-Tsholetsane said: "The latest claim is so huge that the issue is now bigger than we can cope with. All we can do is help Caster."

The spokesperson said Semenya has cancelled all engagements and interviews. "She is receiving trauma counselling. Every day she meets with psychologists who are trying to help her through what is happening around her. We are concerned for her wellbeing.''

The issue has prompted furious reactions from South African politicians, including President Jacob Zuma, and from the country's athletics officials who claim Semenya's privacy has been violated by the IAAF. International athletics officials have refused officially to confirm or deny the veracity of the Australian report.

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