Hyperandrogenism, skewed perception and plain old jealousy

Caster Semenya wins gold at Rio 2016 (Getty)
Caster Semenya wins gold at Rio 2016 (Getty)

By now, we all know the back story. In fact, the whole world does.

South African middle distance runner and icon, Mokgadi Caster Semenya, has been at the centre of controversy ever since her 2009 IAAF World Championship success in which she won her speciality 800m event in Berlin.

Following this achievement, she was then asked to undergo gender tests after her rapid rise to fame and a leaked report thereafter divulged that Semenya is “biologically inter-sex”.  

This implies that Semenya has a form of “hyperandrogenism”, meaning that she, through no fault of her own, produces slightly more testosterone than her female counterparts.

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) tried to challenge this perceived unfair advantage on multiple occasions but was eventually challenged by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) who overruled proceedings due to a lack of evidence that such athletes do indeed possess a greater advantage over their rivals, and rightly so!

Semenya has battled through embarrassment, ridicule and public scrutiny over the past seven years, but has risen above this to realise her ultimate dream of claiming gold in Rio and becoming an immortal Olympic champion.

Such a mighty achievement has by default shown the finger to all her detractors and haters the world over. Following her success, a fellow rival and competitor from Great Britain (whose name I won’t even dignify by mentioning it), cried foul and lambasted the relevant authorities for allowing such athletes to compete, claiming unfairness.

I put it to this sore loser to show me at least a shred of hard and clinical evidence that Semenya’s condition provides her with some sort of advantage.

Does it give her a one second advantage or two, perhaps three? There is absolutely no proof or way of telling and no way of measuring, thus rendering all hypothetical hypotheses and personal perceptions null and void. If she has such a great advantage then why did she get silver in London 2012?

This runner with sour grapes comes from a country which has 10 times the advantage of all the athletes who finished ahead of her, in the form of money, which is ultimately what decides the top medal countries at each Olympics. It is no wonder why first world nations such as the United States of America and China constantly finish in the top two on the medals table. 

Caster, with limited assistance in terms of funding, did it on plain old raw, natural talent. Even if she was omitted from the race, the complainant would have still only have finished in fifth place. Why blame your shortcomings on another athlete? Oh forgive me, there is a reason ... good old fashion jealousy!

Semenya is blessed with a God-given gift that others just cannot handle. It is only because of her success that she has been placed under the proverbial microscope. If she were to finish in the latter positions, nobody would even care about gender tests and testosterone. What strikes me is that the world cannot stand to see an African succeeding, let alone if she is a female!

Every single top athlete in history was blessed with some sort of unique DNA and Semenya is no different. Shall we castigate and vilify Usain Bolt for having longer legs than his rivals or Michael Phelps for having abnormal webbed feet?

“Let’s chop Bolt in half shall we, to even out the playing field” ... said no one ever!

Should we call for basketball players to be shorter? It is the exact same concept with Caster. The only difference is the skewed perceptions portrayed by the biased few who are too narrow-minded to see their own ignorance. I find it odd that Russian athletes who openly dope do not even get half the criticism of a runner who was simply born a certain way. I implore all haters to take a look at the physical appearance of reigning 800m world record holder, Jarmila Kratochvílová, and ask why there was no investigation into her? Is it because she was from the Europe and thus untouchable? Nobody questioned Martina Navratilova when she was beating all other women to a pulp on the tennis court.

What of human rights? Does Semenya not qualify as a human being who also deserves the dignity and respect of the world? Why pick on the physical appearance of others and pigeon-hole them into neat little boxes for your own convenience? Many high profile athletes have condemned the way in which she has been treated and it's simply uncalled for.

Semenya is a role model for so many little kids and young adults the world over. The small girl in the township standing in front of the mirror who feels she is different to the rest, doesn’t feel out of place anymore and through Semenya’s heroic efforts, feels that she too can make a difference, be brave, stand tall and be recognised one day. She is a hope and inspiration to all who may feel out of place in society but dare to dream of also conquering the world one day.

Semenya has done Polokwane, South Africa, Africa and indeed the world proud and should be cheered and respected instead of jeered and rejected. Well done Caster, the nation salutes you. You have done us proud dear golden girl #HandsOffCaster

Dhirshan Gobind is a respected freelance sports columnist/writer/blogger. He is a writer for ‘The Sport Freak’, has columns in ‘The Post’, ‘Galaxy News’ and writes regular opinion columns on Sport24. Email: dhirshg@gmail.com

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